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Dignity in Dying – comment on the Second Reading of the Coroners and Justice Bill

Media statement

26th January 2009 09.10

Dignity in Dying – comment on the Second Reading of the Coroners and Justice Bill

MPs will debate the general principles of the Coroners and Justice Bill when it receives its Second Reading in the House of Commons later today. Alongside creating a national coroners service for England and Wales, the Bill also proposes a number of changes to criminal law, including the first new murder legislation in 50 years and the first substantial amendments to the Suicide Act since it received its Royal Assent in 1961.

In an effort to better protect young and vulnerable people, the Government aims to amend the Suicide Act 1961 to make it explicitly clear that encouraging suicide, whether via the internet or not, is against the law. They aim to achieve this by simplifying and modernising the language of the law, without changing its scope.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive at Dignity in Dying says:

“While the Government’s reforms to our suicide laws are in part welcome, they fall short. The law as it is, and as proposed, fails to distinguish between malicious encouragement of suicide and compassionate assistance to die. This means that somebody who assists, at their request, a terminally ill, mentally competent adult to die is liable to prosecution and imprisonment under the same law as somebody who encourages a vulnerable person to jump from a tall building. This is clearly not right.

“When asked recently if the law on assisted dying should be revised to clarify categories of offences, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said “that obviously means everyone is in a better position, but that is not in my gift, that is for Parliament”. We agree, and we urge MPs and Peers to debate this important issue as the Coroners and Justice Bill progresses through its Parliamentary stages.”


Notes to editor:

About Dignity in Dying:

– Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
– Dignity in Dying has over 100,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
– Opinion polls consistently show that at least 80% of the UK population supports a change in the law on assisted dying.

About the Coroners and Justice Bill:

– The Bill was tabled in the House of Commons on 14 January 2009

– Further details on the Bill can be found at:

Quote from the Director of Public Prosecutions:

– Keir Starmer made his comments in a interview with The Times, which was published on 15 January 2009:

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