J Med Ethics 41:620 doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102345
  • End of life

Suicide tourism may change attitudes to assisted suicide, but not through the courts

Press Release
  1. Charles Foster
  1. Correspondence to Dr Charles Foster, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, OX2 6HG, UK; charles.foster{at}
  • Received 1 July 2014
  • Accepted 3 July 2014
  • Published Online First 20 August 2014

Gauthier et al1 contend that “suicide tourism can result in the amendment of existing laws”, and argue that this is “confirmed” by, inter alia, the example of the UK (by which they must mean England and Wales: The Suicide Act 1961 does not extend to Scotland). They rely entirely on the case of Purdy v DPP2 to support this contention, saying: (1) that “the phenomenon of suicide tourism caused Debbie Purdy to bring about legal action to clarify the position regarding the prosecution of persons assisting in suicide” and (2) that the revision of the guidelines of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) pertaining to the prosecution of assisted suicide which resulted from Purdy resulted in “an overall liberalisation of the prosecution practice in the UK following assistance in suicide”. (1) is wrong, while (2) is at best contentious, and probably wrong.

The Purdy litigation sought to establish two things. First, that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights extended to end-of-life decision-making (there being some doubt about this after Pretty v DPP3 and Pretty v UK4 …

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