Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Brave Debbie Hails Her 'Right to Live' MS Sufferer Ecstatic at Court Ruling

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Brave Debbie Hails Her 'Right to Live' MS Sufferer Ecstatic at Court Ruling

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Morgan

MULTIPLE sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy last night hailed an 'incredible start' after winning a famous victory in her legal battle to be told what would happen to her husband if he helped her travel abroad to end her life.

The Law Lords yesterday unanimously backed Ms Purdy's call for a policy statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions on the circumstances in which a person such as her husband, Cuban violinist Omar Puente, might face prosecution for helping a loved one end their life abroad.

Ms Purdy said the decision paved the way for a 'right to live', while her husband joked it would give the couple "more time to argue".

Giving judgment on the case Lord Hope, sitting with Lords Phillips, Brown and Neuberger and Baroness Hale, said it was no part of the Law Lords' function to decriminalise assisted suicide in this country - where the offence carries a sentence of up to 14 years' imprisonment. But the DPP should be required to set out an "offence-specific policy" identifying the facts and circumstances that he would take into account in deciding whether it was in the public interest to prosecute under the Suicide Act for assisting someone to travel abroad to a country where it was not an offence.

Wheelchair-bound Ms Purdy, 46, left the House of Lords to the cheers of her supporters, and said: "We can now live our lives. We don't have to plan my death.

"I'm ecstatic. I am eagerly awaiting the DPP's policy publication so that we can make an informed decision to make sure what we do does not risk prosecution."

The judgment will bring reassurance to thousands of people faced with the same dilemma.

As many as 115 people from the UK have gone to the Swiss clinic Dignitas to die, but no one has been prosecuted so far.

Lord Pannick QC, for Ms Purdy, had told the Law Lords that, unless the law was clarified, she might be forced to end her life earlier than she planned because her husband would be unable to help her, without risking prosecution, if she became totally dependent.

If the risk of prosecution was sufficiently low, she could wait until the very last minute before travelling with her husband's assistance. …

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