“Murder law is simply not equipped for compassion and is an inappropriate framework for cases where a person compassionately helps a loved one to die”
The Homicide Review Advisory Group has today released a report recommending that the mandatory life sentence for murder be scrapped. The group, made up of judges, academics and former QCs, says that the mandatory life sentence imposes inappropriate sentences for some crimes which fall under the category of murder, such as ‘mercy killing’, for which they think there should be room for discretionary sentencing.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:
“Murder law is simply not equipped for compassion and is an inappropriate framework for cases where a person compassionately helps a loved one to die.
“We absolutely do not condone breaking the law, and directly helping someone to die is a serious crime, but when people act out of love and compassion for another’s suffering it is disproportionate to punish them with a mandatory life sentence – the same sentence given to malicious murderers.
“Dignity in Dying would like to see a law which allows the choice of assisted dying for people who are terminally ill and mentally competent. But for cases which fall outside the framework of assisted dying the law should be able to react with compassion and flexibility so that sentencing can reflect the motivation for the crime, and any extenuating circumstances.”
At present the law only makes two distinctions in cases of helping another person to die; assisting a suicide or murder, whereas in reality cases of compassionate assistance to die covers a broad spectrum of ethically different acts, from assisted dying to voluntary euthanasia. The law of murder is not an appropriate framework for prosecution of any such acts.
Notes to editor:
About Dignity in Dying:
- Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
- Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
- The British Social Attitudes Survey 2010 found that 92% of non-religious and 71% of religious people support assisted dying. This relates to overall support of 82%.
For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at email@example.com.