Can I help someone die?

People sometimes contact Dignity in Dying when they are in distressing circumstances. We hope the comments below are helpful, but they are not legal guidance. Please get in touch if you need more detailed information on the law, or contact details for solicitors to provide legal advice.


Prosecuting policy on assisted suicide


In February 2010, the Crown Prosecution Service published a prosecuting policy on assisted suicide, which explains how decisions on whether to prosecute cases of assisted suicide are taken, and the factors that make prosecution more or less likely.

The prosecuting policy makes clear that there is a distinction between compassionate acts to assist someone to end their own life which, subject to other factors, are unlikely to be prosecuted, and malicious encouragement or assistance of suicide which will be prosecuted.

However, whilst the prosecuting policy gives individuals much clearer indications of how they are likely to be treated under the law, they do not change the law, or provide immunity from prosecution. Assisting suicide is still a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

There is more information on the prosecuting policy here.


‘Mercy killing’


If you directly end someone’s life at their request this is murder, which carries an automatic life sentence. It makes no difference if the ‘mercy killer’ is a close relative or friend, or a doctor who helped a terminally ill person to die at their request.

The only way the charge of murder can be reduced to manslaughter is if very specific 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.


Legal advice


If you have been arrested we may be able to recommend a solicitor who specialises in this area of criminal law to advise you. You can also contact us.