bitcoin twitter facebook

March 17, 2024

Starmer Guidelines Keep Families Apart

The recent death of Scottish solicitor, Bruce de Wert, draws attention to the chaotic and inhumane state of the law in the UK.

In 2014, the now Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, issued CPS guidelines about prosecutions for assisted suicide.

At that time Starmer was the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Presumably, the intention of his office was to clarify the legal situation for anyone close to anyone else who was contemplating a trip to Switzerland.

The actual outcome of the guidelines has been to separate families at the end.

Families like the de Wert’s.

Exit’s Sean Davison (who was with Bruce at the end) said his death was made more difficult because of the Starmer guidelines.

Even though the guidelines do not legally apply in Scotland, they can carry legal weight.

Had the family accompanied Bruce to Switzerland, his death would have been the peaceful family affair that he so desired.

However, on their return to the UK, the family would likely have been obligated (or at least felt obligated) to report Bruce’s death to the police on his return.

This obligation (an important factor against a prosecution taking place) opens a legal can of worms for anyone who has helped another go to Switzerland to die: remembering that assisted suicide is legal legal in Switzerland yet illegal in the UK.

And then there is the ‘forfeiture rule’ which (at least in the UK) applies to cases of assisted suicide: that is that someone who helps someone else to die may not inherit from that person’s estate.

An easy-to-understand summary of how this rule works in regard to assisted suicide can be found on the website of Wright Hassall lawyers.

In 2016 in Scotland, this rule was changed and the courts are able to grant relief but this is cold comfort for a grieving family.

And remember, Bruce de Wert’s practice area was wills and estates; he would have been only too aware of the potential risks for his family.

Exit Note

Philip Nitschke has long argued that a charge of assisting a suicide should not, legally, apply to a person helping another from the UK go to Switzerland.

As he says at Exit Workshops, the person going to Switzerland does not, ultimately, make the decision to die until they are in that country.

There can be no certainty until the person has been cleared ‘for take off’ by the consulting doctor.

Only once the person has been interviewed and assessed by the clinic’s doctor will it be decision-making crunch time.

Assisted suicide is a grey area of the law. This grey-ness should be allowed to work against prosecution, not towards it.