Tuesday, February 02, 2010

So what does go on here?

What devious dealings are going on behind the scenes in an attempt to legalise assisted suicide? Are unelected civil servants, who are supposed to be impartial, using political means in an attempt to change the law?

And what is going to be the final result of the intense campaign for legalised assisted suicide by the chattering classes, aided by a sympathetic media?

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, claimed yesterday that mercy killing is being legalised on the back of a celebrity-driven campaign, without reference to Parliament.

He condemned what one newspaper called "the current bandwagon of fashionable opinion seeking to allow relatives to help the sick and dying commit suicide without fear of prosecution."

I wrote here how, after Parliament refused to legalise assisted suicide, the High Court and the Appeal Court refused Debbie Purdy a guarantee of non-prosecution for her husband if he accompanied her to a suicide clinic.

After she appealed to the House of Lords, Lord Phillips - who expressed sympathy in a newspaper interview for people desiring assisted suicide - said in announcing the decision of the highest court in the land that the law was unclear and that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, must state when he would prosecute for assisted suicide and when he would not.

The DPP did so, thus effectively allowing assisted suicide in some cases without Parliament having changed the law.

Mrs Kay Gilderdale appeared in court last week. Her daughter Lynn, who was in constant pain after 17 years of chronic ME, had died after taking a massive dose of morphine. Mrs Gilderdale, who had already admitted assisting suicide, was now charged with attempted murder (she was found not guilty of that charge).

At the trial, the judge, Mr Justice Bean, asked why a charge of attempted murder had been brought. He was told by the prosecuting barrister "It was thought at the highest level this should be a case that should be canvassed before a jury." This was taken to be a reference to the DPP, who felt obliged to issue a statement defending the prosecution.

Some MPs are reportedly of the opinion that the DPP brought the case as a "showpiece" to build public sympathy for making assisted suicide legal.

MP Ann Widdecombe has laid down an early day motion in the House of Commons, supported by MPs from both sides of the House, stating that the DPP's prosecution guidelines override the will of Parliament. It points out that before prosecution for theft or grievous bodily harm, unlike assisted suicide, "we are not told how much we can steal. . . or how much injury we can inflict."

It calls for the guidelines to be withdrawn, "leaving Parliament rather than the judiciary or unelected civil servants to consider whether to change the law, and making it clear to judiciary that they are not permitted to override the supremacy of Parliament."

The BBC, which claims to be impartial but shows evidence of being anything but, continued the barrage of publicity yesterday. "Hours of coverage," says the Daily Mail, "were given to a Panorama opinion poll. . . Sir Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's, was given the platform of the Richard Dimbleby lecture on BBC1 to call passionately for the establishment of a tribunal where people can seek legal permission to be allowed to die. . .

"There is. . . little doubt that Britain's liberal intelligentsia is cheerleading for assisted dying laws. Celebrities, Labour luminaries and lawyers, including the publicity-hungry Director of Public Prosecutions. . . are all aboard the bandwagon. . .

"But it is for law-makers who represent the people to decide - not bien pensant opinion."

The battle over assisted suicide goes on - but the question remains: what is going to be the effect of this dangerous campaign outside Parliament?