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British Woman With Multiple Sclerosis Loses Assisted Suicide Case

by VR Sreeraman on  February 20, 2009 at 12:42 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
A British multiple sclerosis sufferer lost her court bid Thursday to clarify the law on whether her husband could be prosecuted if he helped her travel to commit suicide abroad.
 British Woman With Multiple Sclerosis Loses Assisted Suicide Case
British Woman With Multiple Sclerosis Loses Assisted Suicide Case
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Wheelchair-bound Debbie Purdy, 45, had asked the Court of Appeal in London to clarify the law on assisted suicide, as her health is rapidly deteriorating.

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In England and Wales under the 1961 Suicide Act, aiding and abetting suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Purdy wanted to know if her husband, Cuban violinist Omar Puente, would be prosecuted if he helped her travel to die in a country where assisted suicide is legal, such as Switzerland, where more than 100 Britons have been helped to end their lives through voluntary euthanasia.

However, three appeal judges ruled she was not legally entitled to the kind of guidance she was seeking.

Purdy has said that without clearer guidance, she would have to travel earlier to commit suicide abroad because otherwise Puente would have to help her -- and risk jail in the process.

The appeal judges said the court could not dispense with or suspend sections of the Suicide Act.

"Not withstanding our sympathy for the dreadful predicament in which Ms. Purdy and Mr. Puente find themselves, this appeal must be dismissed," they said.

"Ms. Purdy must take legal advice, and no doubt she will, and she must then make her own decision."

The judges said that, even if a defendant were to be convicted, a court could decide the circumstances were such that a penal sanction was inappropriate.

Speaking from her home in Bradford, northern England, Purdy said: "I feel that I have won my argument, despite having lost the appeal.

"I am very grateful for, and respect the ruling of the appeal court.

"They have done everything they can do to clarify that... Omar would be unlikely to be prosecuted if he were to accompany me abroad for an assisted death, and we are therefore one step closer to the clarification I need."

Given the unlikelihood of prosecution, Purdy said it was now down to the government to change what she saw as outdated legislation.

"They've done their best to put my mind at rest, but I don't think it is enough."

Source: AFP
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