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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 13:01 GMT
Right-to-die case affects thousands
Diane Pretty is one of 5,000 with Motor Neurone Disease
The legal fight launched by Diane Pretty highlights a plight faced by many of the 5,000 Motor Neurone Disease sufferers in the UK.

While euthanasia remains illegal, those who no longer wish to live with the muscle wasting disease have a choice between carrying on or asking a loved one to break the law by helping them die.

One sufferer, Andy Fairbrother, told BBC News Online that assisted suicide should be legalised and carried out by doctors.

The 46-year-old former builder and amateur boxer has considered ending his own life while he is still able to do so and says he could never ask for his family's help.

Motor Neurone Disease facts
Up to 5,000 people in Britain have MND
It stops the brain sending messages to muscles, which waste
More people die of MND than Aids
Most sufferers stay mentally alert
It's not contagious
He said: "I get very emotional when I see Diane Pretty - I understand what she's going through and she's at a far more advanced stage than I am.

"It's like looking in the mirror - the ultimate end is the same."

Mr Fairbrother said people like Brian Pretty, who want to help a family member die, must be immune from prosecution.

But he also believes they should never face the choice: "If I got like Diane I would want euthanasia, but it would have to be two doctors. I want the law to allow it."

Hopeful

Mr Fairbrother, a father of two from Colchester, has been told he could live for up to ten years and remains hopeful that a cure may be found.

But he is also realistic about living with the disease, which stops the brain sending impulses to the muscles.

He was still working when he was diagnosed last June and is now barely able to walk.

Motor Neurone Disease sufferer Andy Fairbrother
Andy Fairbrother wants euthanasia legalised
The change is proving difficult to accept: "Your brain stays so active, you wake up in the morning and think 'right, I'll get up now'. It's only when you try that you remember you can't"

Without a change in the law or a cure Mr Fairbrother knows he faces a difficult future and very tough choices.

He said: "I have a friend who had offered (to help me die).

"He has said to me 'if it ever gets too much, just let me know'.

"That's a very hard thing for a friend to have to say."

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Deborah Annetts, Voluntary Euthanasia Society
"This is very much a test case"
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