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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
British woman denied right to die
Diane Pretty
Diane Pretty took her case to Europe in March
A terminally ill British woman has lost her final legal bid to be allowed to die.

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

The ruling marks the end of the legal road for 43-year-old Mrs Pretty, who is in the advanced stages of motor neurone disease.

The law has taken all my rights away

Diane Pretty
The verdict came just hours before it was announced that another woman - known as Miss B - had died after she had won her right to have medical treatment withdrawn.

Speaking at a news conference in London, Mrs Pretty's husband Brian criticised the ruling in her case and urged the public to back a campaign to lobby the government to change the law to allow voluntary euthanasia.

Mrs Pretty, who is paralysed from the neck down, also criticised the verdict. Speaking with the aid of a computer, she said: "The law has taken all my rights away."

Mr Pretty told journalists: "I am pleased in one respect because I have my wife with me a little longer but I am very sad because her choice on when she should die has been taken away from her."

Public campaign

He urged members of the public to sign a petition, available on Diane's website, to back a change in the law.

"If the British people are behind Diane as polls suggest it will be great hope for Diane," he said.

"With their help and their help alone can we ask the government to relook at these laws."

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society and civil rights organisation Liberty said the Director for Public Prosecution could draw up a policy document outlining when individuals could help others to die without fear of prosecution.

Mrs Pretty's solicitor Mona Arshi said: "The DPP could publish a policy outlining when he would not prosecute."

VES director Deborah Annetts added: "As a lasting testimony to the courage of Diane Pretty we ask the DPP to put a policy in place."

Unanimous verdict

The seven judges of the European Court ruled unanimously that the refusal of the government to allow Mrs Pretty's husband to help her to die did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

In their verdict, the judges said: "The Court could not but be sympathetic to the applicant's apprehension that without the possibility of ending her life she faced the prospect of a distressing death."

Diane Pretty
Mrs Pretty has motor neurone disease
But they added: "No right to die, whether at the hands of a third person or with the assistance of a public authority could be derived."

Appeals against the court decision can only be made in exceptional circumstances.

Mrs Pretty's lawyers said they were not considering to launch an appeal.

Reaction to the verdict has been mixed.

Richard Green, of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said its members were divided over the case.

He told BBC News: "There are many in the association who supported her application but equally there are people in the association who would have been horrified if there was a change in the law."

The Medical Ethics Alliance welcomed the verdict saying a "right-to-die" ruling would have put many disabled and elderly people at risk.

Dr Michael Wilks, of the British Medical Association, said: "The European Court of Human Rights has made the right decision."

Bruno Quintavalle of the anti-euthanasia ProLife Alliance said: "We are thankful but not surprised by the Strasbourg court's unanimous rejection of her claim to have a right to die under the European Convention on Human Rights."

The BBC's Andy Tighe
"Campaigners say it's inconsistent"
Motor Neurone Disease Association's Richard Green
"It is a devastating disease"
Diane Pretty's solicitor Mona Arshi
"She is very disappointed"
See also:

29 Apr 02 | Health
Right-to-die patient dies
29 Apr 02 | Health
Q&A: Right to die
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