Law on assisted dying 'incoherent'
The law on assisted dying is "incoherent and unsafe" and must be changed, former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Blair has warned.
The peer insisted the current legislation was "failing both those whom it seeks to protect and those tasked with enforcing it".
The intervention, in an article for The Independent on Sunday, comes ahead of a key report on helping the terminally ill to take their own lives.
The Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, is expected to recommend significant changes to the law when it publishes its conclusions on Thursday.
Figures released to MPs recently revealed that police had referred 31 cases of suspected assisted suicide since new guidelines were introduced by director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer in February 2010. However, none has led to charges being brought.
Lord Blair of Boughton said the current arrangement meant people must take a "leap of faith" that Mr Starmer "will respond compassionately" and not prosecute, "trading off their respect for a loved one's dignity against the fear of prison".
"At a time when they should be grieving, under the current system relatives of loved ones are forced into a world of uncertainty that leaves the police and prosecutors torn between good practice and natural human sympathy.
"The approach of the current DPP, Keir Starmer, to this sensitive issue has been rightly compassionate, but another DPP could change the guidance. We are in a situation where the letter of the law prescribes severe punishment, and yet our civilised society rightly fails to have the stomach to prescribe it."
The 11-strong commission, including the Tory MP Penny Mordaunt, the Reverend Canon Dr James Woodward and Dr Carole Dacombe from St Peter's Hospice, was set up by think-tank Demos.
Lord Blair said the report would make many recommendations and hold many caveats. He also raised concerns over the "lack of clarity" for doctors about what constitutes providing "assistance" to someone to take their own life.