Right-to-die wife awaits Lords ruling

Author: By Stephen Howard, Press Association

She took her case to have the law clarified on assisted dying to the highest
court in the land where today a panel of five Law Lords give their ruling.

They sit at the House of Lords where earlier in the month a measure to remove
the threat of prosecution from those who go abroad to help a terminally-ill
patient die was defeated by peers who preside over Parliamentary business.

The judgment also comes in the same month that the Royal College of Nursing
declared it was dropping its opposition to assisted suicide and adopting a
neutral stance.

At a hearing last month, the Law Lords were told that both Ms Purdy, 46, and
her husband, Cuban violinist Omar Puente, wanted to know whether he is
likely to be prosecuted and what criteria the Director of Public
Prosecutions takes into account when deciding whether to bring a charge
under the Suicide Act.

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, representing her, said if the law was clarified, she may be
forced to end her life earlier than she planned because her husband would be
unable to help her if she became totally dependent.

Ms Purdy, from Undercliffe, Bradford, West Yorkshire, who was diagnosed with
MS in 1995, has so far failed to secure a definitive ruling on the issue at
both the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Lord Pannick said: “If the risk of prosecution is sufficiently low, she can
wait until the very last minute before travelling with her husband’s
assistance.”

He said if the risk was high, she would have to go earlier while she was still
fit enough to travel without assistance.

“It is ironic that the policy designed to protect the sanctity of life will
have the effect of shortening the life of terminally-ill persons such as Ms
Purdy.”

It will be one of the last judgments given by the Law Lords at the House of
Lords before they move to the new Supreme Court.

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