Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'RIGHT TO DIE' WIFE WINS KEY HEARING; Judges to Hear Plea That Husband Be Allowed to Kill Her

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'RIGHT TO DIE' WIFE WINS KEY HEARING; Judges to Hear Plea That Husband Be Allowed to Kill Her

Article excerpt


A TERMINALLY-ILL wife today won the first round in her battle to win the legal right for her husband to help her commit suicide.

Diane Pretty, 42, burst into tears of relief and was hugged by husband Brian as the High Court granted permission for a full hearing of her case to take place as soon as possible.

Mrs Pretty, a mother-of-two from Luton, is suffering from the advanced stage of incurable motor neurone disease. She is so weak that she is unable to end her own life without the help of her husband of 25 years.

The couple want an assurance that he will not face the threat of prosecution if he assists her.

The High Court heard that she is "frightened and distressed" not only at the prospect of her inevitable death but at the suffering, distress and indignity she must endure. She wants to maintain some control of her body as the disease is characterised by paralysis and drooling, culminating in choking and suffocation before death.

She has indicated many times her wish for her husband to help her die and has the full backing of her two children. This is the first time human rights legislation incorporated last year into English law has been used in an attempt to make an assisted suicide legal.

Today, backed by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and the civil rights group Liberty, Mrs Pretty was challenging the refusal of the Director of Public Prosecutions David Calvert-Smith, QC, to guarantee not to prosecute her husband if he helped her carry out her final wish.

Wheelchair-bound Mrs Pretty was pushed into the High Court by her husband who sat attentively beside her. Although now barely able to communicate and paralysed from the neck downwards, her intellectual powers are unaffected.

Her barrister Philip Havers, QC, told the court that the DPP had a discretion to issue a guarantee of immunity to Mr Pretty. A refusal would subject her to inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to under the Human Rights Act.

He said Mrs Pretty accepted the general principle that assisted suicides should be illegal.

"That is not so much because of the sanctity of life but for the need to protect those who might be vulnerable to the unscrupulous seeking to assist them to commit suicide," said Mr Havers. …

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