London High Court to rule on assisted suicide

October 29th, 2008 - 2:27 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 29 (IANS) The London High Court is to give a landmark judgement Wednesday on whether a terminally ill person can be assisted in suicide.Debbie Purdy, a wheel-chair bound Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patient, wants a legal clarification if her husband, Omar Puente, will be prosecuted in case he assisted her in ending her life.

“If the high court judges say that people assisting suicide should be prosecuted I may be forced to travel alone - sooner rather than later - and lose the weeks, months or even years of quality life that I could have had,” Purdy told Sky News.

In England and Wales, aiding and abetting suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Purdy, from Bradford, West Yorkshire in England, is a member of Dignitas, an organisation in Switzerland which has a euthanasia clinic.

According to BBC News, Purdy, who was detected with MS in 1995, is gradually losing strength in her upper body and wants to go to Switzerland along with her husband and take a lethal dose of barbiturates. This, provided she gets a guarantee that her husband will not be prosecuted. Otherwise, she will go alone.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has told the court at an earlier hearing that Purdy could not be given a guarantee that her husband would not be prosecuted.

But Purdy wants to know what exactly is the legal process by which the DPP arrived at the decision. Her case is based on the fact that the DPP has so far not prosecuted the relatives of any of the 100-odd British citizens who have gone to the Dignitas clinic to end their lives.

This is the second case in Britain since 2001 of a patient seeking a guarantee against prosecution for assisted suicide. Government attempts to legalise suicide in the country have also run into rough weather, with the latest one, in 2006, defeated in the House of Commons.

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