The law on assisted dying in England

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London as MPs debate and vote on the Assisted Dying Bill in 2015. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London as MPs debate and vote on the Assisted Dying Bill in 2015. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
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Helping someone to die is illegal under English law, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and anyone who "encourages or assists a suicide" could be liable.

Read more-> Paralysed Paul Lamb applies to High Court to change assisted dying law
Read more-> Assisted suicide campaigner Debbie Purdy dies
In 2010, following the case of Bradford campaigner Debbie Purdy, policy guidance was issued covering actions in England, even if the death occurs abroad. This includes a list of 'public interest factors' that will influence if someone is prosecuted, such as whether the assister was wholly motivated by compassion.

Every eight days, campaign group Dignity in Dying claims, someone travels from Britain to Switzerland for a legally assisted death, a process which costs £10,000 on average. A further 300 terminally ill people end their own life in the UK every year, it says.

Around the world, assisted dying is legally an option for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in parts of the US and Australia.

Debate

Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield, speaking in the Commons earlier this month, urged ministers to reconsider the current law after his father's suicide.

The Labour MP, representing Sheffield Central, said it was eight years to the day that his father had been found dead in his garage after a diagnosis with terminal lung cancer.

"His experience shows how the existing law not simply fails people, but leads to premature deaths," Mr Blomfield said. "The existing law in itself encourages people to take their lives sooner than they would otherwise do."

York-born MP Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, also spoke in the Commons debate.

Following the death of late wife and of his mother, he had always been opposed to assisted dying, he said, having seen how vulnerable they became. But since , he added, his views on the issue had "radically changed".

"We can all see from the evidence that the law simply is not working," he said. "I think the evidence is now very strongly in favour of a change to the law."

Leeds' man's campaign

Earlier this month, a Leeds man paralysed in a car crash nearly 30 years ago revealed he has applied to the High Court for a judicial review on UK laws.

Paul Lamb, who has almost no function below his neck, is fighting for the right to die in his own home if the pain he suffers becomes unbearable.

The 63-year-old, who wants to be able to end his life at a time and in the manner of his choosing, argues that the current law breaches his human rights.

“I need to have peace of mind that I can make the decision to end my life with dignity," he told The Yorkshire Post. "We need to end this cruel and discriminatory law.”