Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Cross-Border Suicide is Tricky Terrain

A UK court reached an interesting decision today about the legality of transporting someone to another country for the purpose of assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK, but the law is unclear about whether it is a violation of the law for someone to take an ill person to another country where assisted suicide is legal and do it abroad.

One such country is Switzerland, and a British woman suffering from MS has been seeking a ruling from the High Court that would clarify the law. She says that if she can be sure her husband won't be prosecuted for taking her to an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland, she wants to wait until the last stages of her illness, when she has lost all function, to be killed. She says if the law isn't clarified, she cannot take the risk that her husband could be prosecuted for transporting her to the facility in Switzerland, and she will have to take herself there, earlier in the stages of the illness when she can still get herself around without assistance.

Her legal argument is that the lack of clarity in the law is essentially forcing her to end her life earlier than she would like, while she could still lead a functioning and happy existance.

Though the practice is illegal, since 1992 almost 100 British citizens have had themselves killed at this facility in Switzerland, and the relatives who transported them there haven't been prosecuted. But the plaintiff, Debbie Purdy, says that she cannot in good conscience let her husband transport her to the facility if she knows there is a possibility that he could be prosecuted.

The high court as ruled that the law's lack of clarity doesn't infringe on Purdy's human rights, and it has concluded that only an act of parliament could clarify the law. Purdy's attorneys say she plans to appeal.

It seems a shame that this woman should have to spend what little time she has left on this earth dealing with a high-profile court case.

1 comment:

Kathrin Ivanovic said...

Is there an email address I can contact you at?

I have an offline question.

Thank you,
Kathrin
www.thediversityprojekt.org