"The law - together with the values and standards of our caring professions - " the Prime Minister wrote in the Daily Telegraph, "supports good care, including palliative care for the most difficult of conditions; and also protects the most vulnerable in our society. . .
"The risk of pressures - however subtle - on the frail and the vulnerable, who may feel their existence burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded. And the inevitable erosion of trust in the caring professions - if they were in a position to end life - would be to lose something very precious."
Assisting someone commit suicide is illegal, plain and simple. But in an "astonishing" decision by the law lords which was described this week by ethics expert Professor John Keown as "unprecedented and unsound, if not unconstitutional," the law was required to be "clarified" by the DPP being obliged to state under what circumstances he would and would not prosecute, thus spelling out to people when they would be able to commit assisted suicide and avoid court action.
(Some MPs considered that the judiciary was "overriding the will of Parliament." A few promised to do something about it; but if they have done something about it of consequence, apart from their first verbal protest, I haven't heard what it is.)
The DPP provided interim guidelines in September, along with a public consultation. The final guidelines he announced this week.
It has to be said that the guidelines are not as bad as they might have been. The number of factors where prosecution will be unlikely have been reduced from 13 to six. One that has been scrapped is where the victim is disabled or terminally ill, although not where the victim is fit and well, which people complained discriminated against the disabled.
The 16 factors where the DPP might be inclined to bring charges include where the suspect is a doctor or nurse caring for the victim; in other words, no physician-assisted suicide. And where the suspect belongs to an organisation providing premises where people can commit suicide; in other words, no suicide clinics.
But there are still dangers. Helping a loved one commit suicide "out of compassion" will not invite court action, although the suspect may benefit financially from the death.
Much will depend on how the guidelines are implemented. This is how it all began in the Netherlands, with "strict guidelines" - guidelines that were interpreted more and more widely until the Netherlands practised euthanasia for newborn babies and adults who hadn't requested it.