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Sarah Wootton comments on the case of Mr Button assisting his father to die

On the case of Guy Button providing his terminally ill father with a firearm, at his request, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“Although we absolutely don’t condone breaking the law, we understand the motivations of those who assist terminally ill loved ones to die, at their request, given the lack of an assisted dying law in the UK.

“This sad case demonstrates the desperate decisions people are forced to make, and ask loved ones to make, in order to control the time and manner of their deaths. At the current time the Suicide Act covers all cases ranging from people who maliciously encourage suicide to those who compassionately assist loved ones to die. The UK law tends to treat those who act compassionately leniently, although this distinction clearly needs to be made in law so that people know the likely implications of their actions.

“At the end of this month the distinction between malicious encouragement and compassionate assistance is likely to be made in policy. Following Debbie Purdy’s victory in the House of Lords, the Director of Public Prosecutions will publish an interim policy to clarify this grey area in the law, which will improve the situation for those making decisions about their end of life. A full consultation will follow.

“Ultimately we need a UK assisted dying law which allows the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults at the end of their lives. This would add necessary safeguards to an area which is currently largely unregulated, and prevent tragic cases such as this one involving Mr Button.”