Poor Ali Saunders, the much beleaguered Director of Public Prosecutions, damned if you do and damned if you don’t! Still smarting from the verbal spanking she received from many quarters after her decision not to prosecute Lord Janner, along comes Nikki Kenward the organ grinder’s monkey in the assisted suicide debate initiated by Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor.

Ms. Nikki Kenward’s legal team, funded by us the taxpayers, has been granted a judicial review over Ms. Saunders’ decision not to prosecute doctors and nurses who help severely disabled or terminally ill people to take their own lives. Whilst Ms. Kenward is seriously disabled, she was never asked if she would like help in popping her clogs, so quite what she is doing in the frame is a mystery.

On review, these lawyers will argue that the DPP’s guidelines will enable healthcare professionals to offer their services to those wishing to commit suicide which, according to these well meaning but misguided advocates, is akin to “crossing the Rubicon”. With respect as we say but don’t mean in the legal profession, the services on offer are precisely the services most needed in these tragic circumstances. Ms. Kenward may have been put up to stir the pot, but this should in no way detract from  two very important issues, namely the right of any person of sound mind who wants  to end it all to do so but who cannot do so without help, and the courage and dedication of the doctors who will bring it about.

Assisted suicide is but one dimension of a debate that isn’t going away and will become more and more relevant over the next several years. Lord Falconer’s proposal is confined to those with terminal illnesses who have less than six months to live, so it is cast within fairly narrow parameters.  Of equal if not greater relevance is longevity itself.  When to call it a day?  And who calls the shots?  The advances in medical science help to keep us alive longer and longer, regardless of our state of health, and as we grow older and older, we are part of an environment ill equipped to provide us with the quality of life essential to enjoy our twilight years.  The argument that the Lord will decide has only limited appeal in our post Christian society, so some help may be needed to speed us on our way.

For my part, I am comforted in the knowledge that when I enter the final stretch, I can decide when it’s time to go, and to suggest that my nearest and dearest would connive with the medical profession to send me on my way before I am ready is as unattractive as it is implausible.

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David is an English barrister, writer, public performer and keynote speaker. His full profile can be found on his website.

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