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Page last updated at 07:43 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 08:43 UK

Assisted suicide

Gill Hargreaves

Assisted suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom - though it's not against the law to take your own life.

Debbie Purdy
Debbie Purdy has Multiple Sclerosis

Helping to aid or abet another to commit suicide is a criminal offence under the 1961 Suicide Act in England and Wales.

Scotland does not have specific legislation outlawing this - but you could be prosecuted for culpable homicide if you coerce someone to take their own life.

So where does this leave relatives who help someone go abroad to take their own life?

This week the Lords hope to debate a change to the allow which would free a relative of friend from the threat of prosecution.

Lord Falconer the former lord chancellor has tabled an amendment to the Coroners Bill to in his word clarify the law.

"Has its time come - I hope so. And, the support I've got for putting down the amendment has been pretty significant, now whether it happens or not very much depends on whether or not the lords feels the time is right with the public to make this change.

"I think it is and I hope the lords will think so as well, but we'll have to wait and see.

"A lot of work and a lot of water needs to flow under the bridge before then."

Patient
Taking the temperature on public opinion on assisted suicide

Polls on what people think about assisted dying are few and far between.

Getting the wording right so as to be as impartial as possible with the question is fraught with problems.

After all - what one person regards as assisted dying another will see as committing suicide.

So the Politics Show asked the polling organisation ICM simply to ask people what they thought should happen to someone who accompanies a terminally ill person abroad to take their own life.

Very few people said that people should ALWAYS be prosecuted if they help someone end their life abroad. Just 4% of those surveyed.

41% thought they should SOMETIMES be prosecuted if the police and the legal authorities think there is a good case to do so - as is the case now

And 49% think - like Charles Falconer and the campaigners - that people should NEVER be prosecuted for helping in this way.

Read the full results of the ICM research on assisted suicide:

Notes

* ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,012 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 17-18 June, 2009.

* Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

* ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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