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MPs back assisted suicide guidance

MPs have backed the Director of Public Prosecutions over guidance on when to prosecute cases of assisted suicide.

The Commons agreed without a vote to endorse Keir Starmer’s “realistic and compassionate” guidelines, produced two years ago following right-to-die campaigner Debbie Purdy’s legal battle.

After a five-hour debate, MPs also agreed to a call to encourage the development of specialist palliative care and hospice provision for the terminally ill.

Opening the backbench-led debate, Conservative MP Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) said the guidance, which outlines how those with good motives who helped a loved-one end their life should not be pursued by the law, was “realistic and compassionate”.

A recent poll found 82% of people supported the guidelines, Mr Ottaway said, telling MPs it was not in the “public interest” to prosecute someone for ending a friend or relative’s life.

In the first major debate on the issue in the Commons since 1997, Mr Ottaway said the law had previously failed to distinguish between a manipulative individual who coerced somebody to take their own life, and a relative who cared round-the-clock for a terminally ill patient.

Labour MP Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) supported legalising assisted suicide after his cancer-stricken, 87-year-old father gassed himself last July.

Fighting back tears, Mr Blomfield said his father did not want to end his life bed-ridden and relying on 24-hour care like many of his friends.

The MP added: “He wasn’t in pain but he couldn’t face the indignity of that lingering, degrading death.

“I am sure he made up his mind soon after receiving a terminal diagnosis for lung cancer.

“But he still died prematurely and I am sure what drove him to end his life when he did was the fear that if he didn’t end his life when he could, he would lose the opportunity to act at all.

“If the law had made it possible he could, and I am sure he would, have shared his plans and he would have been able to say goodbye.

“He would have been able to die with his family around him and not alone in a carbon monoxide filled garage.

“He, and many more like him, deserve better.”

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