A newly-promoted health minister has criticised UK rules on assisted suicide as “ridiculous”, adding that legislation needs to “evolve”.
Anna Soubry, who was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Health in this week’s reshuffle, called for greater “honesty” about when prosecutions would be brought for helping relatives to die.
Her comments come after locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, 58, died a week after he lost his legal fight to end his life with a doctor’s help.
The father of two, from Melksham, Wiltshire, had been refusing food and contracted pneumonia after he was left “crestfallen” by the court’s decision.
Ms Soubry told The Times: “You can’t say to a doctor or a nurse you can kill this person.”
But she said it was “appalling” that the terminally ill who needed help to end their lives had to go abroad.
“I think it’s ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home,” Ms Soubry.
“The rules that we have about who we don’t prosecute allow things to happen but there’s a good argument that we should be a bit more honest about it.”
Assisted suicide carries a sentence of up to 14 years’ imprisonment.
A spokesman from the Ministry of Justice said: “The Government believes that any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is an issue of individual conscience and a matter for Parliament to decide rather than Government policy.”
The Department of Health added that the Government has, “no plans to look at this issue”.
Mr Nicklinson’s widow Jane said she would continue his fight to win a landmark ruling for the legal right to die by appealing against a High Court decision made over her husband because “nobody should have to suffer like Tony did”.
Mrs Nicklinson, 56, said she hoped his campaign for a change in the law on assisted dying would continue in his memory.
She said: “I am delighted that I am able to continue what Tony started. I feel very strongly that this issue should be addressed.
“It is too late for Tony but I hope that we can now help those who find themselves in a similar position. Nobody should have to suffer like he did.”
Mr Nicklinson was a keen sportsman until he was paralysed by a stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005.
The family’s solicitor Saimo Chahal, from Bindmans LLP, added: “Jane’s application to take Tony’s place in the claim is a strong and compelling one.
“It is evident from recent polls that around 70% of the public consider that there should be a change in the law in this area.
“The case has very wide public significance which should be considered by the Court of Appeal and if necessary by the Supreme Court.”
Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/982464