Terminally-ill patients could legally end their own life
Doctors could be given the right to be able to help terminally-ill people to die, a report said today.
Adults who are likely to have less than a year left to live could be given the chance to ask their doctor for a dose of medication that would end their life, the year-long Commission on Assisted Dying said.
But stringent safeguards must be in place to protect those who might not have the mental capacity to make such a choice, or who might be clinical depressed or experiencing pressure from friends or relatives.
The commission, chaired by former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, said that, under their proposals, a terminally-ill person would need to be able to take the medication themselves, as a clear sign their actions were voluntary.
The findings will anger campaigners against a change in the law who have warned that it would risk increasing the pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives out of fear they might become a burden for others.
It could lead to around 13,000 deaths a year, the Care not Killing alliance said.
Since new guidelines for prosecutors in assisted suicide cases were brought in in February 2010, anyone acting with compassion to help end the life of someone who has decided they cannot go on is unlikely to face criminal charges.
But assisted suicide remains a criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and individual decisions on prosecution will be made on the circumstances in each case.
The commission has taken evidence from legal, medical and religious experts, and people with personal experience - such as Alan Cutkelvin Rees, who helped his partner Raymond Cutkelvin to travel to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to die in 2007, and Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis and has campaigned to know if her husband will be charged if he helps her travel to Dignitas.