In Britain, the battle over assisted suicide and
right-to-die laws has been heating up over the past few weeks.
The country has no intention of making assisted suicide
legal. But, in the past decade, hundreds of Britons have traveled to Switzerland,
where clinics offer doctor-assisted suicides for the terminally ill. And thus
far, the country has been reticent to prosecute and punish their family members
for going with them or aiding them in the process, although assisting a suicide
is a felony in Britain.
The gray area led to numerous calls -- from doctors,
citizens, and members of Parliament -- for a clarification of the law. This month,
a famous couple chose to end their lives in Switzerland, and a woman with
multiple sclerosis appealed to Parliament as well.
And today, the House of Lords instructed
the director of public prosecutions to do just that.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post
arguing for the clarification of the law on class grounds. (See a rebuttal to
my point from Felix Salmon here.
Though I disagree with Felix -- the terminally ill are probably not capable of
getting loans worth thousands of dollars and the process is expensive.) Assisted
suicide in a foreign country is an expensive thing for Britons -- today, one
doctor said he gave a third of the cost, 1500 pounds, to a terminally ill man
who could not afford the trip to Switzerland without it.
And, today, the general practitioner called on Britain to
prosecute him for doing so. The Guardian reported:
A former GP said today he hoped to be prosecuted for helping a terminally
ill man to have an assisted
suicide. Dr Michael Irwin, 78, said he wanted to highlight the
"hypocrisy" of a system where the wealthy could pay to travel to
Switzerland's Dignitas clinic for euthanasia but the poor could not. He will be
questioned by police today after writing a cheque...
I don't want to make a point about whether assisted suicide
itself should be legal. But this Irwin's case does make me realize I was
imagining families -- not sponsors -- when I thought of those who might benefit
from a clarification of the laws.