British Woman Declined Right to Assisted Suicide
Source: AP, Reuters, BBC; November 28, 2001
Woman Declined Right to Assisted Suicide
-- A terminally ill British woman lost a high-profile
court battle on Thursday to take her life by assisted suicide in a test
case of whether Britain will permit assisted suicide.
Diane Pretty, a 43-year-old mother of two, has waged a
lengthy legal fight to allow her husband kill her without being
prosecuted. Pretty suffers from a muscle-wasting disease and her bid
have an assisted suicide had been seized on by the pro-euthanasia lobby
their best chance of changing the law.
in their ruling, a panel of five judges in the House of Lords, the
highest court in England, backed a previous decision by London's High
Court that human rights were aimed at protecting the right to live --
a right to die.
said although suicide was no longer a crime in Britain, it remained
against the law to assist another's suicide.
killing is in law killing," Lord Bingham said in his ruling.
organizations and the disabled, who argue that assisted suicide
would endanger disabled and vulnerable people, were relieved by Thursday's
was really terrified that if she had won my safety would
becompromised,'' said Alison Davis, who suffers from spina
bifida,osteoporosis and emphysema. ``Fortunately, I am surrounded by
people who helped me see you can still be dignified even if you are
rapidly failing health, Pretty vowed outside the House of Lords
not to give up her fight. On a computer screen attached to her wheelchair
she wrote the words: "I feel I have no rights." She indicated
take her case to the European Court of Justice.
at her side, her husband Brian said: "Diane is angry and
disappointed at today's verdict. I am feeling tired but she wants to
on the fight," he said.
sympathetic with her plight, the judges said they were not
entitled to act as moral or ethical arbiters and were committed to
"applying the law as it stood."
contracted motor neurone disease two years ago. She said every type
of medical treatment available had failed her and her last wish was
allowed to die.
the early stages of her legal battle just months ago, Pretty was seen
outside court smiling, with her husband Brian ever by her side. But
swift onset of the disease left her too ill to attend many later court
lawyers argued that the ban on assisted suicide infringed her
basic human rights and right to privacy. They appealed to the House
Lords after the High Court dismissed her case.
strongly wishes to control how and when she dies," Pretty's lawyer
Philip Havers told the law lords.
current laws, Pretty's husband could face a jail term of up to 14
years if he killed her.
groups had championed Pretty as a cause celebre and hoped
her case would lead to a softening in the law.
spokesman for the British Medical Association (BMA), which has
consistently opposed euthanasia, said: "The BMA believes that the
Lords has made the right decision.
BMA recognises that Mrs Pretty's condition is extremely debilitating
but it is relatively rare and would not justify a change in the law
would affect many more people."
Minister Tony Blair said he was not in favor of changing British law
to allow assisted suicide. "It is really a matter of conscience
on both sides of the House, but I'm afraid I'm not in favour of amending
that Act," he said.
Netherlands became the first European Union country to legalize
assisted suicide in April, but Pretty's defeat is seen as a major setback
to British campaigners. Belgium moved closer to legalising "mercy
when the upper house of its parliament voted in early November for a
law setting conditions under which doctors could help patients die.