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Please help me die
Please Help Me Die

Diane Pretty, who fought for the right to die in the British courts and in the European Court of Human Rights, has died.

Aged 43 and in the advanced stages of motor neurone disease, Diane died on Saturday in a hospice near her home.

The European Court of Human Rights had ruled on 29 April that the British courts' refusal to allow Diane Pretty's husband to help her to die did not contravene her human rights.

After their appeal was dismissed in the British courts in November 2001, the Prettys decided to take their fight a step further.

A lot of people said I wouldn't make the journey

Diane, speaking to Panorama about her trip to Strasbourg
Diane travelled on a nine-hour ambulance journey to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg - the first time she had ever been abroad - to ask for the right to die.

The Panorama team was the only film crew to be with her when she later received the decision on her case.

The couple decided to give the programme exclusive access to their home and their lives so people can see, as Diane said, "what it feels like to be in my shoes".

'What life?'

I suffer pains everywhere

Diane, speaking to Panorama
In a series of interviews, Diane told Panorama about her quality of life, her belief that she should have the right to die and her conviction that giving her the choice she wants would not lead to other, vulnerable patients being put at risk.

Because of the illness, we can't hold hands or walk arm in arm, have lengthy discussions or even cuddle but we still have a laugh, still talk and still love each other

Diane, speaking to Panorama
Unable to speak, Diane communicated with Panorama reporter Sarah Barclay through nods, shakes of the head and a machine called a light writer, which enabled her to tap out words letter by letter using a keypad operated by pressure from her wrist.

One sentence could take up to 20 minutes to write.

When asked whether life isn't always better than death she replied: "I am dead".

When asked about her quality of life, she replied simply: "What life?"

Deprived of dignity

It feels degrading and humiliating... I reached the point of wanting to die when I couldn't do anything for myself

Diane, speaking to Panorama
Diane, a mother of two, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease - a fatal and incurable illness affecting around 5,000 people in the UK.

She decided she couldn't wait for the disease to take its course and face a death she believed would be distressing and deprived of all dignity and control.

Brian and Diane Pretty on their wedding day
Brian and Diane Pretty on their wedding day
She wanted to commit suicide and would have done so, but the disease, having robbed her of control of her hands, stopped her from taking her own life.

She asked if a doctor could help her die but was told this was against the law. She asked if her husband could help her, only to be told that if he did, he could face up to 14 years in prison.

'Bad law'?

Diane took her case to court, believing that by challenging what she believed was a law depriving her of choice, she would also be helping other, terminally ill patients who also wanted to choose how and when they died.

In Panorama: Please Help Me Die some of those most closely involved in Diane's care talk openly about the medical and ethical dilemmas facing the medical profession when caring for the terminally ill.

The programme asks if euthanasia is already taking place behind closed doors and, if so, why should there be a change in the law?

Those opposed to euthanasia argue it is impossible to produce proper safeguards and that "hard cases" like Diane's make "bad law."

Production Team:
Producer: Terry Tyldesley
Producer/Cameraman: Ken Kirby
Assistant Producer: Joanna Lee
Reporter: Sarah Barclay
Additional filming: Alison Priestley
Sound: Steve Hubbard
Editor: Mike Robinson

Panorama's Sarah Barclay
"Diane and Brian decided that if the law was against them, they should try to change it."
Panorama: Please Help Me Die looks at the case of Diane Pretty


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