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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 22:23 GMT
'Mercy killing' bill scrutinised
Ministers say the issue is a matter of conscience
A move to allow doctors to assist a terminally ill patient to end his or her life has cleared its first hurdle in the House of Lords.

Crossbencher Lord Joffe's measure would also permit assisted suicide for people near death, mentally competent and who had expressed a wish to die.

His Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill will now be sent to a Lords select committee for detailed scrutiny.

Ministers have no plans to change the law but will listen to the debate.

Retired human rights lawyer Lord Joffe's Bill would allow assisted suicide for patients for whom continued palliative care cannot ease suffering.

We recognise the complexity of the issues involved and the polarity of the views held
Lord Warner
Junior Health Minister

The attending physician could only provide the patient with the means to end life, unless they were physically unable to do so.

But crossbencher Lord Alton of Liverpool said those who were against the Bill would remain "resolutely opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide".

The select committee scrutiny would deal with the issue "once and for all", he said.

Junior Health Minister Lord Warner said while there were no plans to change current laws on euthanasia, he added: "We recognise the complexity of the issues involved and the polarity of the views held."

The Bill received an unopposed second reading.

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