Euthanasia law faces challenge

A terminally ill woman is to begin a court battle that could result in a move towards legalised euthanasia.

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy is confined to a wheelchair and expects her condition to deteriorate further.

She wants her husband to help her travel to Switzerland, where she will be able to end her own life legally.

However, she also wants assurance that he will not be prosecuted on returning to Britain, where assisted suicide is unlawful.

After the Director of Public Prosecutions refused to guarantee that her husband would be immune to prosecution, High Court judges granted her the right to launch a judicial review of the decision.

Miss Purdy’s legal battle begins this week. She says: “I’m not asking to be able to carry out an illegal act in this country, just to have clarified what would happen to my husband if he accompanies me to somewhere where it is legal.”

However, pro-life groups warn that the court’s decision in this case could weaken Britain’s law on assisted suicide.

Alison Davis, the national co-ordinator of disability group No Less Human 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.”

Earlier this month Baroness Warnock stirred up controversy by suggesting that elderly people with dementia should be helped to commit suicide if they become a burden to their families or the state.

She said: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.”

Responding to her comments, Mike Judge of The Christian Institute said: “Baroness Warnock seems to be saying that a person’s life is only worth continuing if it is valued by other people and, more worryingly, by the state.

“It is appalling to suggest that the elderly should have to consider it a duty to end their own lives in case they become a burden on their families. Surely the real duty lies with their families and with society to care for them.”