Let us look at some of the reasons given by those advocating a change in this law. They say the current law is not working and point to cases such as that of Ann Whaley—a case surely deserving of our compassion, but one that contradicts their arguments for change. It shows that our current law is working.
No prosecution was proceeded with in Ann’s case. I understand how unpleasant it must have been for her to be interviewed under caution, but the CPS approaches such cases on the basis that if someone is in some way involved with the suicide of another person, yet has compassionate rather than self-interested motives, it is highly unlikely that they will be taken to court. Indeed, there have been only three successful such prosecutions in England and Wales in the last 10 years, and during that period just 148 cases were referred to the CPS.
The small number of cases and rarity of prosecutions indicate that our law is an effective deterrent to those with malicious or self-interested motives and protects against the very real danger of the abuse of the disabled, sick, frail or elderly and the danger that they could feel pressured into ending their own lives.
Why change this? Proponents of change argue, as we have heard from Nick Boles, for a very focused, very limited, legal change on assisted dying, but it would not stop there.