Only parliament can change law on assisted suicide, British court rules

October 30th, 2008 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 30 (IANS) The London High Court has said that only the parliament has the right to change current suicide laws wherein a person assisting a terminally ill patient in committing suicide is not prosecuted.The high court ruling came Wednesday after Debbie Purdy, a wheelchair bound Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patient from Bradford, England, wanted a legal clarification if her husband, Omar Puente, will be prosecuted in case he assisted her in ending her life.

Purdy’s case was that current laws do not clarify on the issue which constituted for violation of her human rights.

Her claim is that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had a legal duty to clarify if he will prosecute in a case of assisted suicide. The DPP has not responded.

Justices Scott Baker and Aikens ruled that Purdy’s human rights had not been infringed and that it was up to Parliament to redraw the limits of the law.

Justice Baker said, as quoted in The Independent: “This would involve a change in the law. The offence of assisted suicide is very widely drawn to cover all manner of different circumstances; only Parliament can change it.”

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

Speaking after the ruling, Purdy said: “We still don’t know how we can make sure that we stay within the law, because I’m certainly not prepared for Omar to break the law - I’m not prepared for him to face jail. How can we make sure that we act within the law if they won’t tell us in what circumstances they would prosecute?”

She says she is still considering travelling to Switzerland to take a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by doctors at Dignitas, an organisation in Switzerland which has a euthanasia clinic. She says she may have to leave earlier than she really wanted if her husband is not to accompany her.

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