LONDON, March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- SPUC condemns today's attempt by the former health minister, Mrs Patricia Hewitt, to change the law to make it legal to take people abroad to commit suicide. Mrs Hewitt's amendment to the Coroners Justice Bill is an unwarranted threat to disabled and vulnerable people.

Commenting on the amendment SPUC's general secretary, Paul Tully, said: Mrs Hewitt's amendment sought to exempt from prosecution anyone assisting a person's travel to another country for the purposes of committing suicide legally there. The pro-euthanasia lobby is seeking to change the public perception of suicide - to make it seem like a reasonable and proper course of action for people who are suffering. From the perspective of those who are disabled or suffering from degenerative disease, the message is clear: 'you would be better off dead'. The more outspoken advocates of this philosophy (like Baroness Warnock) speak about the right and duty for those who are elderly, sick and dependent to choose death.

This is truly frightening, particularly to those who live with much suffering and restriction due to disability or other reasons. It devalues their lives, and it disparages the efforts of those who help them to live to the full - their families, carers and medical team.

The proposed amendment contained no safeguards to ensure that it would apply only to the dying - as press reports have misleadingly claimed. On the contrary, it would apply to anyone at all - the teenager who has failed exams or been bullied at school, people suffering from problems ranging from addiction to bereavement to bankruptcy - or anyone else. All could be helped to die under Mrs Hewitt's proposed regime. Far from reassuring people, this amendment represents a sinister negation of their right to exist.

Allowing assisted suicide will not protect the vulnerable nor give real support to families in difficult circumstances, Mr. Tully continued. Enshrining 'suicide tourism' in law would undermine the basis of the prohibition on assisted suicide, which is the universal right to life.

Contact: Paul Tully +44(0)20-8660-3651, mobile +44(0)7939-178719