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23 / 09 / 2009 - Northern Ireland Public consulted over suicide law
People living in Northern Ireland are being asked to take part in a consultation on assisted suicide.
A similar exercise is being carried out by the Public Prosecution Service in England and Wales.
The consultation will last for 12 weeks during which charities like Action Cancer and local churches will be asked for their views.
Aiding or abetting suicide in Northern Ireland is an offence which carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
The PPS is considering the position in Northern Ireland after the House Of Lords ruled the law in England must be clarified.
The PPS cannot change the law as it stands, but determines whether or not a prosecution is in the public interest.
Debbie Purdy, who has MS, made legal history by winning her battle to have the law on assisted suicide clarified.
Ms Purdy, from Bradford, wanted to know if her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her end her life using the Dignitas service in Switzerland.
Five law lords ruled in July that the director of public prosecutions must specify when a person might face prosecution.
There have been no known cases where someone from Northern Ireland has used the Dignitas service.
In 2005 Martin Barry, a multiple sclerosis sufferer from Cork in the Irish Republic, used Dignitas to end his life.
He was accompanied by his friend Laura McDaid, from Coleraine. A play she wrote about the experience was recently broadcast on BBC radio.
Source: BBC News
A copy of the interim guidance and the consultation questionnaire is available here
The public consultation runs to December 16th, after which a summary of the consultation responses will be published. It is envisaged that the finalised guidance will be issued in Spring 2010.