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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Right to die: the reaction
Diane Pretty lost her fight at the High Court
Diane Pretty lost her fight at the High Court
The High Court has said Diane Pretty, a woman with motor neurone disease does not have the right to assisted suicide.

BBC News Online presents the reaction to the controversial decision.

Campaigners who had backed Mrs Pretty's fight said she would fight "all the way" for the right to die how and when she wanted.

Deborah Annetts from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society told the BBC Mrs Pretty's counsel has indicated that were good grounds for carrying on the fight. "Diane has said she wants to carry on. She's a very tough lady and always knows exactly what she wants.

Deborah Annetts: says Mrs Pretty will fight on
Deborah Annetts: says Mrs Pretty will fight on
"She wants to die with dignity, when and how she wants."

Ms Annetts said the court had concentrated on the effect of their decision on society rather than on Mrs Pretty herself.

"They didn't really address Diane and her human rights."

A spokesman for Liberty, the civil rights organisation, lawyers for Mrs Pretty, said: "We are very disappointed but we will look forward to taking the case to the House of Lords.

"We feel that the court hasn't acknowledged the difference between Diane's exceptional circumstances and the broader and very necessary protections for vulnerable people in society."

"We believe there is a clear distinction to be made between the two."

'Common sense victory'

Pro-life campaigners welcomed the courts decision.

Dr Michael Howitt-Wilson, deputy chairman of pressure group Alert, (Against Legalised Euthanasia - Research and Teaching) said: "I think it is a victory for common sense. It shows that the Director of Public Prosecutions was obviously right in the first place."

For the court to give a decision the other way would have made the whole sanctity of life look ridiculous

Dr Michael Howitt-Wilson, Alert
"For the court to give a decision the other way would have made the whole sanctity of life look ridiculous.

"It would have made the right to life an impossibility.

"If one has the right not to be killed, to give somebody immunity against killing would make a nonsense of that."

He said, although he sympathised with her plight, he felt she was "totally misguided" to think that having her life ended in that way would be better for her than dying naturally.

Dr Howitt-Wilson said the awful stories of every sufferer of MND dying by choking were totally untrue, especially if patients have the benefit of good palliative care.

"I think Mrs Pretty should find a doctor who specialises in that to help her."

Extraordinary claim

Raanon Gillon, professor of medical ethics at Imperial College said: "It was always unlikely that Mrs Pretty would win this case because British law is very clear.

"It allows suicide but it makes illegal aiding and abetting suicide.

"I'm sure the judges were very sympathetic for Mrs Pretty, but they would have felt unable to change the law themselves."

Professor Raanon Gillon: judges would have felt unable to change the law
Professor Raanon Gillon: judges would have felt unable to change the law
Dr Greg Gardner, deputy chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance also welcomed the High Court's decision.

He told BBC News Online: "My initial reaction is that this was expected because it was a very extraordinary claim that she was making.

He said if the decision had gone in Mrs Pretty's favour, it would have been used "as a battering ram to attack the existing law to protect vulnerable people."

The decision on Mrs Pretty's case came on the same day a right-to-life card was launched by MPs campaigning against euthanasia.

The wallet-sized card threatens legal action against any doctor who seeks to withdraw food or fluid to end the carrier's life.

George Levvy, chief executive of the MND Association, said it had neither supported nor opposed Mrs Pretty's case.

He added: "However, we know this case has created a lot of interest among people with MND who, like the rest of society, have very varying views on this subject.

"We know there are many people with MND who were hoping to hear a different decision by the court today, but equally there are many people who will be pleased with today's ruling.

"What this case has highlighted is that MND is a cruel and devastating disease and the MND Association must continue to fight to provide care and support to people with the disease and to fund research to find the causes and a cure."

'My experience'

Alison Davies, of the pro-life charity Alert, described how her own circumstances meant she was "relieved about the court's decision".

"I was absolutely terrified about the possibility she was going to win.

"I don't think there is any circumstance in which one person should be allowed to kill another."

Alison Davies: says no one should be able to kill another
Alison Davies: says no one should be able to kill another
Ms Davies has spina bifida, emphysema and osteoporosis, and admits she has attempted suicide.

"I wanted to die but my friends intervened."

"At the time I was very angry with them, but over the years they helped me re-establish a more positive outlook.

"I had time to do that, but if you are surrounded by people who are saying yes, you are undignified, you would be better off dead, you are likely to believe that."

She added: "In effect, Mrs Pretty was saying that using the Human Rights Act, it was undignified and inhumane to keep her alive.

"If its inhumane to and undignified for her to be disabled, its also the same for me, and I would be a suitable case for killing."

A human right or simply murder?
See also:

18 Oct 01 | Health
Woman loses right-to-die case
31 Aug 01 | Health
Right-to-die fight - what next?
20 Aug 01 | Broadband
Woman fights for right to die
20 Aug 01 | J-M
Motor neurone disease
28 Nov 00 | Euthanasia
Euthanasia and the law
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