Opinion: Right to die a fraught issue

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There are few questions more likely to provoke fierce debate than whether terminally-ill British citizens should receive assistance to die.

Suicide was decriminalised in the UK more than 50 years ago, but there are no legal safeguards to protect people from prosecution if they help someone with a terminal illness to end their life.

However, this situation could soon change.

Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield is backing a new Parliamentary bill, which aims to give doctors the option of prescribing life-ending drugs without fear of arrest. Patients can then take the medication at a time of their choosing.

However, cautionary tales abound. Readers of The Star may remember the court case of pensioner George Webb in 2011.

He helped his wife Beryl to die at their home in Wadsley, in the belief she was terminally ill, but later discovered she suffered from a mental condition which caused her to exaggerate her illnesses. Mr Webb was subsequently tried for murder and convicted of manslaughter, but had his jail sentence suspended on appeal.

Any new legislation which opens the door to assisted suicide must be scrutinised extremely carefully to prevent any abuse or future heartache.

by Richard Blackledge, Health Reporter