Assisted dying to be debated in the Harrogate Chambers

In the UK it is legal to take your own life, but it is illegal to help someone else end theirs. Helping someone take their own life is classed as facilitating directly or indirectly in the act.

In February 2010, the Crown Prosecution Service published a prosecuting policy on assisted suicide, which explains how decisions on whether to prosecute cases of assisted suicide are taken, and the factors that make prosecution more or less likely.



The prosecuting policy makes clear that there is a distinction between compassionate acts to assist someone to end their own life which, subject to other factors, are unlikely to be prosecuted, and malicious encouragement or assistance of suicide which will be prosecuted.

However, whilst the prosecuting policy gives individuals much clearer indications of how they are likely to be treated under the law, the policy does not change the law, or provide immunity from prosecution.

Assisting suicide is still a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

In some other countries and specific states in America, it is legal to assist the death of an individual, where they are of sound mind. Assisting normally means providing either orally or intravenously a drug that would end life. The final act of taking the drug is with the individual ie a doctor does not inject but the individual opens the intravenous drug or swallows the drug willingly.

A debate will hosted this evening on the question of if the law should now be changed.

Organiser, Andrew Gray said:

I hosted the first debate three years ago again in the Council Chambers. That time we were copying perhaps the most famous debate online: Tony Blair V Christopher Hitchens debating whether religion was a force for good in the world. I sold out the Chamber.Though it has taken a few years for the next one, the appetite in Harrogate and Knaresborough for discussing the big questions was quite clear.There is no other similar forum.Our second debate tonight, like all the debates we will host, is for all people.Though we have a professor debating a Christian GP, the question is so important that young and old should find it fascinating.In addition, if, like me, you don’t have a strong view on the topic, perhaps this will change by the end of the debate.The other co-founder is Professor John Adams MBE. He is chairing the debates. John was actually one of the speakers for the first debate and won. Yes, a speaker can win the debate.This is because the audience must vote on the motion before the debate and then again at the end in order to determine who persuaded the most people to switch positions. Therefore the debate will test the speakers’ skills.

We are debating assisted dying (not suicide) because of all the recent TV programmes on the topic. In addition, we have secured two national speakers and finding good speakers is tricky.

The event is hosted in the recent forum for many fiercely argued debates, the Council Chambers in Crescent Gardens, Harrogate.


Andrew added:

When we used the Chamber in 2012 we realised that the vast majority of people in the area had never been in it before. It was a treat! It’s an imposing room.

Although we are set up as a company, it is not profit-making. The ticket price helps cover the room hire costs plus the hotel accommodation and travel expenses of the speakers.

The next debate will be on the EU – in or out. The following debate will be on faith schools.
The-Harrogate-Debates-poster

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