Wednesday, 11 June 2008

SPUC plans to intervene in assisted suicide case

SPUC plans to intervene in the case of Debbie Purdy (pictured), a lady with multiple sclerosis who is seeking an assurance that her husband will not be prosecuted if he assists her suicide. According to media reports, Mrs Purdy wants to know if her husband will be liable to prosecution if he helps her to travel to Europe to commit suicide. The High Court in London today agreed to grant Mrs Purdy a judicial review hearing at a later date.

SPUC has been at the forefront of the campaign against euthanasia and assisted suicide in the UK for a number of years. SPUC led an intervention in the 2002 case brought by Mrs Dianne Pretty, who was seeking automatic exoneration of her husband should he bring about her death. A number of pro-life groups, medical ethics groups and disability rights organizations supported the intervention. Mrs Pretty lost her case. She subsequently died peacefully. SPUC has also campaigned in relation to other cases where the right to life of disabled people has been undermined - such as the deliberate killing of Down's baby John Pearson in 1981 and the young brain-injured football fan, Tony Bland, who was starved by court order in 1993. SPUC is also a member of the Care Not Killing alliance, which helped defeat Lord Joffe's assisted suicide bill.

Alison Davis, co-ordinator of No Less Human, a division of SPUC, said: "Allowing assisted suicide or weakening the law against it would compromise the protection from harm every vulnerable person deserves. The assumption that dying and incurably disabled people are, in effect, right to want to die and better off dead would be confirmed. It will make all vulnerable people even more vulnerable to a form of fatal discrimination. It will divert resources from the hospice movement, which aims to achieve peaceful deaths for all, to providing deliberate killing as a solution to the challenges illness and disability pose. There is no legal or moral right for anyone to commit suicide.

Ms Davis continued: "I understand completely the despair and blackness which causes some disabled and ill people to feel suicidal, because I once felt the same. I have spina bifida and several other painful disabling conditions. I use a wheelchair full time, and am getting progressively weaker. For ten years I wanted to die and I made several serious attempts to kill myself. My friends, however, helped me to re-establish a sense of my own infinite human value, a value which isn't diminished by being severely disabled and having to depend on others. I am now grateful that assisted suicide remains illegal."