BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 13 May, 2002, 04:37 GMT 05:37 UK
Husband's tribute to Diane Pretty
Brian and Diane Pretty
Her husband Brian was at her bedside
Diane Pretty's husband has described her death as a release which has left her "free at last".

The terminally ill British woman, who lost a legal battle to allow her husband Brian to help her commit suicide, died on Sunday.

Mr Pretty, who risked prosecution if he had helped her to die, said he was "very proud of her".

Campaigners say her death will not affect the fight to change the law on assisted suicides.

I want to have a quick death without suffering, at home surrounded by my family

Diane Pretty
Mrs Pretty, 43, died at a hospice near her Luton home, slipping into a coma after ten days of severe breathing difficulties caused by advanced motor neurone disease.

Mr Pretty said the manner of her death was "the one thing she had foreseen and was afraid of".

On her website, Mrs Pretty had written: "I want to have a quick death without suffering, at home surrounded by my family so that I can say good-bye to them."

The mother-of-two's condition deteriorated three days after she lost her right-to-die court challenge in the European Court of Human Rights.

'Great courage'

Mr Pretty was at his wife's bedside when she died.

Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Chris Davies, who supported Mrs Pretty in her legal fight, said her life should be commemorated with an Act of Parliament creating a legal basis for assisted suicide.

The North West MEP said: "Diane Pretty's courageous battle has highlighted the need for a long overdue reform of the law.

"People in her situation should have the right to choose for themselves to die with dignity and without suffering."
Mrs Pretty
Pretty said she had no rights

In a statement issued on Sunday by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES), Mr Pretty said "I was with Diane most of the day and was about to come home when I was stopped and told it was time.

"And then for Diane it was over, free at last."

He added: "The staff were wonderful at their job and there was always someone there with her."

In an historic ruling last month, European judges dismissed Mrs Pretty's claim that the British courts were contravening her human rights by refusing to allow her husband to help her commit suicide.

The ruling marked the end of the legal road for Mrs Pretty, who criticised the decision.

Diane showed great courage and determination

George Levvy
Motor Neurone Disease Association

After it was announced, she told a news conference in London: "The law has taken all my rights away."

After Mrs Pretty's death, Dr Ryszard Bietzk, head of medical services at the Pasque Hospice, Luton, where Mrs Pretty was cared for, said her death was "perfectly normal, natural and peaceful".

George Levvy, chief executive of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said: "Diane showed great courage and determination, both in her battle against motor neurone disease and in her campaign through the courts.

"Her story has highlighted the devastating nature of MND and the need for people with the disease to have the best in palliative and terminal care."

But campaigners who had fought to block her case stood by their decision.

Rachel Hurst, director of Disability Awareness in Action, said it would be "very wrong for justice to say in certain circumstances people can die".

"It would be a slippery slope and many people who did not want to die could be affected," she said.

BBC One's Panorama programme followed the Prettys as they fought their legal battle.

Panorama: Please Help Me Die was screened on BBC One on the evening of the day she died. To watch it click here and follow the link.

The BBC's Karen Allen
"She pushed one of the biggest taboos into the headlines"
The Voluntary Euthanasia Society's Deborah Annetts
"There is a real need to look at the current law"
George Levvy of the Motor Neurone Disease Assoc.
"No one with the disease need die distressed"
BBC Panorama Reporter Sarah Barclay
"Her communication with the outside world was gradually cut off"
See also:

29 Apr 02 | Health
Q&A: Right to die
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories