Pressure mounts for assisted suicide to be allowed on the NHS after MS sufferer’s landmark legal victory
Published on The Independent, by Andy McSmith, 1 August 2009.
The right to end your life on the NHS will be available within a few years, campaigners forecast yesterday, as they stepped up their battle to change Britain’s suicide laws.
Buoyed by the law lords’ ruling in the case of Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, they have vowed to renew their efforts to change the law. Mrs Purdy stressed yesterday that she would rather be able to die at home when she chooses, than go to Switzerland, where the laws on assisted suicide are less restrictive than in the UK.
“Swiss people don’t use the Dignitas clinic, because the law allows them to die in hospital or at home,” she said. “Foreigners do that, because we have no option. My choice would be to die at 90, of old age, after the medical profession had found a cure for multiple sclerosis, but because that probably won’t happen, when life is unbearable I would prefer to be able to have an assisted death in this country, and not to have to travel.”
Her remarks will fuel the campaign for a change in the 1961 Suicide Act, which makes it illegal under any circumstances to assist someone to commit suicide – with the result that 115 British patients have travelled to Switzerland to die there.
Lord Lester QC, one of the peers involved in a recent unsuccessful attempt to change the law, forecast: “It will happen in the end.” He warned that any reform will face intense opposition, and could take 10 years. “We will try in the Lords and I’m sure people will try in the Commons. But it will be extremely controversial,” he said. “It will be opposed not just on religious grounds. There are many in the palliative care area and in the legal profession who are against it, though the public is not – so I wouldn’t bet on any government bringing in the legislation for a decade” … (full text).
- Amy Jenkins: Let me decide when it’s the time to go;
- Charlie Courtauld: As an MS sufferer, this verdict makes my life a little more bearable.