This book could not have appeared at a more timely moment. On 18 July 2014, the Assisted Dying Bill presented by Lord Falconer was given a second reading in the House of Lords. The bill would make it possible for mentally competent, terminally ill people to have the assistance of doctors and nurses to end their own lives. The option would be open to that relatively small, but not insignificant proportion of dying people (perhaps 1 per cent) for whom palliative care cannot alleviate the suffering and humiliation of their last weeks or months of life. Several previous attempts have been made to introduce such a bill, most recently by Lord Joffe in 2006. Very similar legislation has already been passed in a number of American states, particularly Oregon and Washington, and even more permissive laws are in operation in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, but this is the first time such a bill has been permitted to proceed in the United Kingdom. The bill is currently, as of January, making good progress through the House of Lords but it is uncertain whether it will achieve assent there before the end of this parliamentary session.
The 1961 Suicide Act established that suicide and attempted suicide were no longer to be treated as crimes. Assisting someone else to take their own life, however, remained a criminal offence, subject to severe penalties. This situation changed in 2010, when the director of public prosecutions issued a statement making