Informal Legal Change on Assisted Suicide The Policy for Prosecutors Essay Sample

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Lewis article revolves around the decision made by House of the Lords’ regarding Debbie Purdy case and the interim policy issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions. This policy outlines the factors to take into consideration in judging whether a trial in an assisted suicide incidence is in the public attention. In his article, Lewis considers various aspects that I am going to analyze to show the contribution of the research to the understanding of the law. He considers three aspects, which include interim policy, the following public discussion and the consequential final policy.

Research in law assist to find authority which will help in coming up with an explanation to a legal problem. For instance, the House of the Lords mandated the DPP to give directions for Purdy and other individuals who are in a similar situation considering ending their live with the help of some one. The DPP is required to come up with a solution to a legal situation affecting the public interest. Researches from various scholarly books, constitution and judicial precedent assist DPP to produce guidance to this case and understand what the law needs.

Fundamental authorities are the set of laws that are obligatory upon the government, individuals and courts. Examples include the court order, statutes, court decision and regulations. Administrative agencies, courts and legislature create these authorities. For instance, a decision by the House of the Lords’ to issue directives to the DPP can be considered as the fundamental authority. Legal research contributes widely in law by coming up with secondary authorities that do not have obligatory consequences but assist in defining what the law should be or what the law is. The sources of secondary authorities are complicated and hugely leading to several law schools to enable students to take classes. Lewis has used the secondary authority in writing of his article.

Lord Brown outlined factors against and for prosecution that are a lined to the Daniel James case. This is a judicial precedent that the prosecutor needs to research on in order to understand what the law requires before coming up with guidelines. After two month when the House of the Lords gave their verdict, DPP released an interim policy outlining the factors that a prosecutor should consider in determining whether it is in the public attention for a trial in an assisted suicide incidence. In order for Lewis to understand these interim factors, he carried out various researches that are in relation to these interim policies. For instance, he quoted the words of Sir Hartley Shawcross, who was Attorney General in 1951. He said ‘it has never been the rule in this nation, and I believe it will never be that suspected criminal offences must automatically be the theme of prosecution’. This research assists Lewis to comprehend the law behind the interim policies and find out whether they are conflicting with each other.

Researches help us to under our law by identifying gaps in various decisions that has been made and directions of the laws. In his article, he has identified various gaps that the DPP failed to consider in development of his policy. For instance, Lewis is able to question the interim policies produced by DPP. He indicates that within the policy produced no explanation provided for the judgment that DPP has taken to include all crimes that could be accused under s 2(1). According to Lewis, speeches of Lord Neuberger, Lord Brown and Baroness Hale inferred the broad interpretation of DPP. The Director of Public Prosecution decided to do away with a leading speech from Lord Hope speech and produce a policy that will have substantial greater result than ordered by the House of the Lords is an interesting case. This has hastened ‘informal legal change on assisted suicide’.

The consultation document only listed public attention aspects against and for prosecution. No efforts were made to outline the grounds why these aspects were taken and why not other factors. Furthermore, no explanations were given for the first judgment made regarding duplication of aspects across the list and putting a lot of weight to some factors. For Lewis to understand this proposal by the DPP he feels that explanation to some factors should have been provided, while he just assumes that some aspects are self-explanatory and others are not. Without various researches he did, it would have been difficult for him to understand the context of this policy and be able to identify these gaps.

Research also contributes in understanding the law of the given field by coming up with tools that assist the researcher to interpret a legal authority. Several researchers look for tools that give summaries of a certain area of law. Some of these tools are journals, treaties and encyclopedias. During the 12 week public consultation time, some members used these tools to assist them in understand the policy issued by the DPP. Lewis also had to use various references in coming up with an article. These are the tools that assisted him in understand and interpreting this policy. For instance, he used government websites, Mental Capacity Act, statements concerning the deaths of Lady Downes’ and Sir Edward and European Journal of Health Law. DPP faced many questions regarding the condition of the victims. One of the main challenging questions he faced was how the interim policy should handle the situation of the victim. The main stated requirement was that of terminal illness that would favor Purdy case. Only the United States of Washington and Oregon assisted dying is legalized enforce a fatal illness necessity. In order to understand this law comprehensively Lewis compared this law with other nations such as Belgium and United States.

Some of the factors included in the interim policy were removed in the final policy with no specific reasons to remove them. The DPP policy faced a lot of criticism from the members of the public. This shows that DPP has not carried enough research to understand what the public want. Moreover, he had not comprehensively understood the law relating to this policy. Lewis has carried several researches for him understand law relating to this policy of DPP. He has been able to critic and identifies various gaps that DPP had not considered when drafting this policy. It would have proven to be extremely difficult for him to analyze the Debbie Purdy, Daniel James cases and the guidance produced by the Director of Public Prosecution, if he had not carried out any research. Therefore, research contributes to the understanding of the law in various aspects.


Retrieved January 3, 2010, from gesetzgebung/sterbehilfe/ber-org-suizidhilfe-d.pdf

Decision On Prosecution – The Death By Suicide Of Daniel James. (n.d.). : Press Release : Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from

Humphry, D. (1991). Final exit: the practicalities of self-deliverance and assisted suicide for the dying. Eugene, Or.: Hemlock Society ;.

Lewis, P. (2010). Informal Legal Change on Assisted Suicide: The Policy for Prosecutors. London: PUBLISHED AS: Legal Studies, 2010.

Merino, N. (2012). Assisted suicide. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

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