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Dignity in Dying receives many calls from people who are placed in distressing circumstances. These illustrate some of the calls we receive. Please ring us to discuss your circumstances because each case may have unique aspects and while we hope the comments below are helpful they are not legal guidance.
When somebody takes their own life
If a loved one takes their own life there is a possibility that anybody in the proximity of that person will be investigated by the police. Sometimes, irrespective of whether you have been involved in assisting your loved one in their death, you may be arrested.
Helping somebody commit suicide
If you help someone take their own life by committing suicide you will have acted unlawfully under the Suicide Act. If you are convicted you will be subject to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. It makes no difference under the law if the person you helped to die was terminally ill.
Just being there
Graham Lawson's sister Sue was suffering unbearably with multiple sclerosis and she ended her life. Graham was present and held her hand. Graham was arrested, strip-searched, and locked in a police cell overnight. It took five months for police to decide whether to charge Graham.
Graham was angry that the law treated him like a criminal and he wants to see the law on assisted dying change.
If you end someone's life at their request this is murder. Murder carries an automatic life sentence. It makes no difference if the 'mercy killer' is a doctor who helped a terminally ill person to die at their request. 'Mercy killers' are treated by the law in the same way as a violent murderer. The Law Commission has recognised that the law as it relates to 'mercy killers' is in a mess and needs urgent review. The only way the charge of murder can be reduced to manslaughter is if extenuating circumstances can be found. Manslaughter carries a discretionary sentence that may range from being set free with conditions to a long sentence of imprisonment.
We can advise you
If you have been arrested we may be able to recommend a solicitor who specialises in this area of criminal law to advise you.
Help us campaign
It is inhumane that the law of murder and the Suicide Act govern a dying person's wishes. It also criminalises those, whether a loved one or a doctor, who act on a dying person's request for help to die out of compassion. Please help us to change this inhumane law.
You can contact us on 020 7479 7730 or use our free online contact form.