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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 15:19 GMT
Right-to-die case dismissed
Diane Pretty
Diane Pretty wants the right to die
Terminally-ill motor neurone disease sufferer Diane Pretty has lost the latest stage of her court battle to be allowed to end her life.

Five Law Lords unanimously dismissed the appeal, saying that human rights legislation was in place to protect life rather than end it.

However the 43-year-old mother-of-two, from Luton, now intends to take her fight to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.


I feel as if I have no rights

Diane Pretty
Mrs Pretty is paralysed from the neck down and has to be fed with a tube.

After the ruling, despite not being able to speak to waiting reporters, she communicated that she felt "angry and disappointed."

Her husband Brian said that she told him: "I feel as if I have no rights."

Condition deteriorating

Lord Bingham
Lord Bingham rejected her case
Mrs Pretty is gradually become more disabled by her disease, and wants her husband to be able to help her commit suicide without fear of prosecution.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had refused to give an undertaking not to prosecute, and Mrs Pretty challenged this.

The case had already been rejected by the High Court, and she can now appeal to the European courts if she wishes, although any appeal could take some time to organise.


Mercy killing is in law killing

Lord Bingham of Cornhill
One of the five, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, said assisted suicide was against the law and no-one had the power to suspend or abandon laws without parliamentary consent.

He said: "No-one of ordinary sensitivity would be unmoved by the frightening ordeal which faces Mrs Pretty.

"She faces the prospect of a humiliating and distressing death."

He said: "Mercy killing is in law killing."

'We will go on'

After the hearing, Brian Pretty said that Diane wanted to continue with the case.

He said: "She has communicated to us that she wants to go on to the next step."

However, there are fears that she may not be well enough to cope with a protracted European battle.

Mr Pretty said: "Her deterioration since August has been considerable."

He said that she would attend any European hearing if well enough.

Her solicitor Mona Arshi, said: "Diane wants a peaceful and dignified death - and to ensure that those few people in the same extreme position who make the same choice have that option.

"Of course legal protections and safeguards are necessary - but these protections are not helping Diane, they are denying her her one remaining choice."

No change

Prime Minister Tony Blair has already said that he does not intend to change the law on assisted suicide.


Diane is still very committed to her struggle and will continue to fight as long as there is breath in her body

Deborah Annetts
Voluntary Euthanasia Society

Supporters say Mrs Pretty is clear in her mind that she wants to end the suffering and indignity which she will have to endure before she dies if the disease is allowed to run its course.

Director of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, Deborah Annetts, said: "Diane is still very committed to her struggle and will continue to fight as long as there is breath in her body."

However, she said that it was in the DPP's power to effectively decriminalise assisted suicides like the one sought by the Prettys.

Matter of conscience

Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday that he was not in favour of reforming the Suicide Act to allow ill people to take their own lives.

He told MPs during Prime Minister's Question Time in the Commons: "It is really a matter of conscience for people on both sides of the House, but I'm afraid I'm not in favour of amending that Act."

Diane Pretty and husband Brian outside court
Diane Pretty has pledged to fight on

Anyone who is convicted of helping someone take his or her own life faces up to 14 years in jail.

A spokesman for the British Medical Association (BMA), which has consistently opposed euthanasia, said: "The BMA believes that the House of Lords has made the right decision.

"The BMA recognises that Mrs Pretty's condition is extremely debilitating but it is relatively rare and would not justify a change in the law that would affect many more people."

A spokesman for the Motor Neurone Disease Association said that there would be mixed feelings among other patients about the ruling.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Karen Allen
"Disappointed but not down"
Solicitor Mona Arshi
"We are very disappointed by this ruling"
Deborah Annetts, Voluntary Euthanasia Society
"We have got over 90% of support in this country for a change in law"
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