Debates

Coroners and Justice Bill - Encouraging or Assisting Suicide

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Debate on Lord Falconer's proposed amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill - 7 July 2009

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The Coroners and Justice Bill (now the Coroners and Justice Act 2010) included provision for tightening up the 1961 Suicide Act.  Under the 1961 Act it had been a criminal offence to 'aid, abet, counsel or procure' the suicide or attempted suicide of another person.  In the Coroners and Justice Bill the Government sought to ensure that the 1961 Act applied to internet websites encouraging acts of suicide and to this end proposed that in future it should be a criminal offence to "encourage or assist" (rather than "aid, abet, counsel or procure") another person's suicide.  During the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords Lord Falconer of Thoroton proposed to amend the Government's proposal in such a way as to exempt from its definition of encouraging or assisting suicide acts designed to assist persons who had been certified by two medical practitioners as being terminally ill and who wished to seek assisted suicide in other jurisdictions where that practice was legal.  Lord Falconer's Amendment was defeated by 194 votes against 141.  We provide here the Hansard record of the debate on the Amendment.