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Ethics briefings
  1. Sophie Brannan,
  2. Ruth Campbell,
  3. Martin Davies,
  4. Veronica English,
  5. Rebecca Mussell,
  6. Julian C Sheather
  1. Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Martin Davies, Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP, UK; mdavies{at}

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Assisted dying

Assisted Dying Bill

Previous Ethics briefings1 have reported on the progress of Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill through the House of Lords.

Committee stage of the Bill took place on 7 November 2014, where over 170 amendments were tabled. Peers debated and approved Clause One amendments, which introduce judicial oversight for assisted dying decisions. The amendments, introduced by Lord Pannick, would require a Judge in the High Court Family Division to review any request for assisted dying, and be satisfied that the individual's request was genuine and not coerced, and that they had the capacity to make such a decision. This would be in addition to the Bill's requirement for two medical practitioners to be satisfied that an individual meets the eligibility criteria, as contained in the Bill.

Committee stage will continue at a later date, yet to be confirmed.

Updated Director of Public Prosecutions’ policy on assisted suicide

As previously reported here,1 the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Tony Nicklinson in June 2014.2 Part of that appeal concerned Martin, an individual with locked-in syndrome who wanted a health professional to assist him in ending his life by accompanying him to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. He sought an order that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Policy for Prosecutors in Respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide was unlawful, insofar as it was not sufficiently clear on the position of healthcare professionals.

The Court declined to make such an order, but did hold that the DPP must take steps to resolve any uncertainty or confusion surrounding the operation of the policy.

In October 2014, the DPP issued an update to the 2010 policy to clarify the position on the likelihood of prosecution of a healthcare professional. The relevant paragraph was amended so that prosecution of a healthcare professional is now more …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.