Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alison Davis legally challenges the prosecution guidelines in the UK

Alison Davis, the leader of the disability rights group, No Less Human, has launched a legal challenge to the prosecution guidelines concerning assisted suicide in the UK.

Davis, a woman with multiple disabilities, stated that the legal ruling, that forced the Director of Public Prosecutions to weaken the prosecution guidelines concerning assisted suicide in the UK, was unsound and based on a bias. Davis alleges that Lord Philips of Worth Matravers, now the Supreme Court's President, later expressed strong personal views on the subject of assisted suicide in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

Lord Philips stated to the Daily Telegraph:
"I have enormous sympathy with anyone who finds themselves facing a quite hideous termination of their life as a result of one of these horrible diseases, in deciding they would prefer to end their life more swiftly and avoid the death as well as avoiding the pain and distress that might cause their relatives."

Davis's legal challenge alleges that the ruling related to the Diane Purdy case was "vitiated by the principle of bias", and therefore "the decision of the former House of Lords is 'unconstitutional' and usurps the powers of Parliament."

The legal challenge also calls for "a full Supreme Court to be convened to reconsider and hear fresh arguments on the Purdy case."

In a letter to Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions,Davis wrote that: "The guidelines are unfair, unjust, and fatally discriminatory against suffering people, who deserve the same presumption in favour of life as any able bodied person would automatically receive. They (the prosecution guidelines) have no place in a civilised society."

Andrea Williams, the lawyer for Davis, stated: "Disabled people have always had the protection of the law and disabled people are now appealing to the highest court in the land in an attempt to retain this protection."

Peter Saunders, the Director of the Care Not Killing Alliance added: "The Law Lords' decision in July, overturned earlier Judgements in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, was an unusual one to say the least - that those contemplating breaking the criminal law in this area should be advised how far they might go without risking prosecution."

Saunders also stated that: "the prosecution guidelines ... and in particular their suggestion that helping a severely disabled person to commit suicide might be regarded more leniently than helping someone else to kill themselves - we are not surprised to hear that the Law Lords' decision is now being questioned."

"It is not difficult to see why people with disabilities and seriously ill people should now perceive that they are not to be afforded the same protection that the law gives to the rest of us." said Saunders.

The spokesperson for Lord Philips stated: "Lord Philips has not called for a change in the law. He simply expressed sympathy with anyone considering ending their life because they had a terminal illness. He made it clear that this was his personal view."

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition reacted when the prosecution guidelines were issued by stating:
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is particularly concerned about the devaluation of people with disabilities that is evident in the guidelines. A person, such as Alison Davis, the leader of the group No Less Human in the UK would qualify for assisted suicide under these guidelines.

When an able-bodied person becomes significant disabled from an accident or a medical condition they will often be upset by their new physical or cognitive condition. These people need the law to protect them to provide time to learn how to live with their new reality. They need to be protected and not treated with inequality or threatened by the possibility of dying by assisted suicide when they are experiencing a difficult time of life.

We are also concerned about this concept of a person being “wholly motivated by compassion.” It is nearly impossible to determine the motivation outside of the context of their actions. We reject the concept of a “compassionate homicide” and we reject the concept that a person that assists the suicide of another person is acting in a compassionate manner.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is convinced that the temporary guidelines by the DPP have created a new class of inequality within the application of the assisted suicide law in the UK. If these guidelines are not amended in order to equally protect every citizen under the law, then these guidelines are likely to be struck down by the Courts thus further eroding the assisted suicide law in the UK.

These guidelines are simply unacceptable and they directly threaten the lives of people with disabilities and other vulnerable people in the UK.

The Prosecution Guidelines for assisted suicide in the UK must be revoked.

Link to the article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/6729832/Assisted-suicide-disabled-campaigner-in-11th-hour-court-challenge.html

Link to the original comments by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition concerning the prosecution guidelines in the UK: http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2009/09/prosecution-guidelines-in-uk-may-open.html

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