Minister slams assisted suicide law

Banbury Cake: Jane Nicklinson said she would appeal against a High Court decision made over her late husband Tony Jane Nicklinson said she would appeal against a High Court decision made over her late husband Tony

The laws on assisted suicide have been criticised as "ridiculous" by a newly-promoted Health Minister.

Anna Soubry, who was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Health in this week's reshuffle, called for greater "honesty" about when prosecutions would be brought for helping relatives to die and that the legislation needed to "evolve".

Her comments come after locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson died a week after he lost his legal bid to end his life with a doctor's help. Ms Soubry said she was ambivalent about that case, and that a doctor should not be required to kill somebody.

"You can't say to a doctor or a nurse you can kill this person," she told The Times.

But she said that it was "appalling" that the terminally ill who needed help to end their lives had to go abroad.

"I think it's ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home," she said. "The rules that we have about who we don't prosecute allow things to happen but there's a good argument that we should be a bit more honest about it."

Assisted suicide carries a sentence of up to 14 years' imprisonment. The highly contentious issue is in the spotlight again after Mr Nicklinson's death. His widow said today she would continue his fight to win a landmark ruling for the legal right to die.

Jane Nicklinson said she would appeal against a High Court decision made over her late husband because "nobody should have to suffer like Tony did".

Mr Nicklinson, 58, died a week after he lost his legal bid to end his life when he chose with a doctor's help. The father of two had been refusing food and contracted pneumonia after he was left "crestfallen" by the court's decision. He died at his home surrounded by family on August 22.

Mrs Nicklinson, 56, said she hoped his campaign for a change in the law on assisted dying would continue in his memory. She has decided to lodge an appeal herself as his widow and carer. The British Humanist Association has also applied to intervene in the case.

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