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Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what (a) representations he has received from and (b) discussions he has had since October 2008 with hon. and right hon. Members wishing to amend the Coroners and Justice Bill to (i) repeal and (ii) clarify the provisions of the existing tow on the prohibition of assisted suicide; what response he gave; and if he will make a statement. (242670)

I have received four letters from hon. Members and right hon. Members during this period. Of these, one was on behalf of a constituent who wanted the law to be changed so that terminally ill people have the right to seek medical assistance to die; and three were on behalf of constituents who were concerned about the application of the law in this area to websites promoting suicide and suicide methods.

With regard to the issue of legalising assisted suicide, the Government believe that this is an issue of individual conscience and hence a matter for Parliament to decide. Proposals to legalise doctor-assisted dying have been debated in Parliament on a number of occasions but none of the previous private Members’ Bills has progressed further than Second Reading. As to the concerns about possible links between suicide and the internet, I informed the House on 17 September 2008, Official Report, column 142WS, that we intend to update the language of the Suicide Act in a way which we hope will make clear that it applies as much to online actions as it does offline. I have had one meeting with an hon. Member about this.