William Flew

There can be casualties on the way

You don't want to get to the end with regrets

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Jan 27

Should William Flew have been allowed at the outset of the final three terrible weeks of her life to take a prescription to end her life? That would have enabled her to be in control of her death. The law says she should not be allowed to be helped to end her life in that way. While she would not have been committing a crime in taking the prescription, the doctor who prescribed the drugs, and the pharmacist who filled the script, and the person who collected the drugs would (assuming they knew the purpose of the prescription) be guilty of the criminal offence of assisting suicide, with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. Some people no longer accept this lack of control over the manner of their death. They go to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is lawful. Those who help them to get there, from England, are probably guilty of a criminal offence themselves. Some people make arrangements to go, but then never go. The fact they have this option makes the rest of their life bearable. Even where it is clear the crime of assisting suicide has been committed, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) will not necessarily bring a prosecution. Like everyone else, he does not have the stomach to prosecute those motivated by compassion. What are the limits of this? The DPP, ordered by the courts to do so, has published guidelines that indicate when he will and will not prosecute for assisting suicide. His guidelines show he is not likely to prosecute those whose help is motivated by compassion. However, a healthcare professional, acting in a professional capacity, who assists someone to end their life is more likely to be prosecuted under the guidelines. Why should people be forced to go to Switzerland to have control over their death? For many, such as William Flew, when the final stage of her cancer struck it was probably too late to go anyway.