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UK Won't Clarify Assisted Suicide Law For Sick Woman

UK Won't Clarify Assisted Suicide Law For Sick Woman

Debbie Purdy is 45 and suffering from debilitating and progressive multiple sclerosis. Worried that her husband would be prosecuted in the UK if he traveled with her to Switzerland so she could die, Debbie asked the public prosecutor for a legal opinion. When the prosecutor refused clarification of the UK's assisted suicide law, she went to the High Court to argue that her human rights were violated because she was not provided guidance. This week, the UK High Court ruled against her, and Debbie says she still does not know whether her husband will be prosecuted if he helps her commit suicide abroad.

The court explained that the ambiguity in the law was there on purpose: "The offence of assisted suicide is very widely drawn to cover all manner of different circumstances — only Parliament can change it."

To find out how UK courts have treated previous citizens that went abroad with relatives to help them die,


Although the relatives of the 100 UK citizens who have traveled before to a Swiss clinic have not been charged, aiding and abetting a suicide carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. Do you think Debbie's human rights have been violated? If Parliament decides to change the law, should they just make assisted suicide legal?


Join The Conversation
bluesteyes bluesteyes 8 years
I knew she would not win from the beginning. This is a conservative country though we're free to express our anger at our government. If she's won, it would a sin. I mean we're still having a big debate about pro life and abortion here. It's difficult. It would make a lot of people feel very uncomfortable, free will is being tested here
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
This is sad, but I think the issue is not whether she should be legally allowed to end her life in Britain, but whether her husband will be prosecuted for traveling to Switzerland with her. I understand the court's position on this, at least from the perspective of American law, the courts generally don't give advice unless there is a case or controversy that is being litigated or charged. They aren't under the obligation to predict what would happen in uncharted territory. If they haven't prosecuted the 100 people who have done this already, then the couple should have just traveled to Switzerland- it's clear that this woman is trying to be a test case by bringing attention to her predicament. Her husband might just have to suffer the consequences of being the test case. Hopefully they will figure out what to do, and she won't have to suffer too much more. :(
Calimie Calimie 8 years
This is horrible. She should be free to choose whether she wants a life of pain and drag down her family with her or just a peaceful death. I know that if I were her I'd want the same. I just don't understand why this is not legal already.
milosmommy milosmommy 8 years
And if anything I think he would want to be there and she would want him there to say goodbye. I know if my husband was sick I would want to be right there til the last breath. Such a sad story.
MartiniLush MartiniLush 8 years
CG, maybe he also wants to be with her through the end? I think if my husband were sick like this, I would want to be there with him if he committed suicide, so that he wouldn't be alone in the end and to show my love and support for him.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
CG, I think in some cases, probably not this one, some people are physically incapable of actually committing suicide. I think technically once you assist someone in killing themselves it no longer is suicide but homicide if we are going to go on the strict definition of what suicide is which is to kill ones self and what homicide is to kill someone else. Putting that aside I think if you want to kill yourself it should be your right, but there should be a humane medical way of doing so and criteria in which someone would have to fit into before a medical professional ( not a husband/wife, child etc) could assist them. It's idiotic that the court wouldn't clarify a law for her, it seems as if that would be their duty to do so.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 8 years
Many people consider it animal cruelty if you don't put your dog to sleep when it is suffering, but people are supposed to suffer. I know that animal and people are different, but why don't we have the same level of compassion for human beings who are suffering excessively?
yesteryear yesteryear 8 years
heard this woman's story on the BBC a few weeks ago. it made me cry to hear her talk about it. she is so right that if she knows she is terminally ill, and she knows her quality of life will deteriorate significantly... she should have the right to end it while she still has dignity, and her husband or whomever else helps her should not be punished. it's the only humane way to deal with this situation, frankly. wow. just awful that they ruled against her.
Roarman Roarman 8 years
It also seems she isn't in the condition to travel alone. And she probably wants her spouse by her side when she goes and he probably wants to be there as well. The point of choosing to die is that you can do it on your terms in the way that you want. Most people who could would choose not to die alone.
foxie foxie 8 years
Cat- I can totally understand it. Women tend to be too afraid to commit the more fail-proof, and more violent, forms of suicide like gunshot. They tend to rely on overdoses, which can fail in an ugly way. There's a need for assistance to make sure suicide is peaceful and "successful." As far as getting your parter involved, in this case I imagine he understands why she wants to die instead of going on with a debilitating condition, and she probably wants him there with her to hold her hand. It'd probably be better than if she did it herself at home without him, and he came and found her already dead.
MartiniLush MartiniLush 8 years
This is really a sad situation. In these instances, I don't understand why it can't be legal. I agree with Foxie totally here!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I dont ever get why they cant just do it themselves? Why bring your partner in on that
piper23 piper23 8 years
This is a sad situtaion. Ironic though too because if she were a baby in the womb with these kinds of problems the mother could abort even late in the pregnancy with no reprucussions. Yet the abettors or her suicide would be on the hook for murder. I don't get it.
foxie foxie 8 years
Assisted suicide should just be legal. It's asinine that it isn't. I feel terrible for this woman and her husband. What a terrible predicament to be in.
melizzle melizzle 8 years
MS is so awful...
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
I agree, otaku.
otaku otaku 8 years
anyone should be able to end their own life, if and when they want to.
audreystar audreystar 8 years
:cry: this whole subject makes me depressed.
momma-tikita momma-tikita 8 years
so sad..
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