Page last updated at 00:11 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Woman in assisted suicide appeal

Debbie Purdy with her husband outside London's Royal Courts of Justice
Debbie Purdy is concerned her husband could be prosecuted

A woman with multiple sclerosis who lost her High Court case to clarify the law on assisted suicide is set to appeal against the decision.

Debbie Purdy, 45, from Bradford, is considering going to a Swiss clinic to end her life, but fears her husband may be charged on his return to the UK.

She wants clarification of where her husband, Omar Puente stands legally.

Ms Purdy, was diagnosed with primary progressive MS in 1995 and can no longer walk.

Aiding or abetting a suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

There have so far been no prosecutions of relatives of 101 UK citizens who have gone to the Dignitas clinic.

I can't imagine a situation under which they would say no we're not prepared to tell you what the law is and I can't allow myself to think that
Debbie Purdy

Ms Purdy was granted a judicial review on the grounds that the Director of Public Prosecutions had acted illegally by not providing guidance on how those decisions had been reached.

In October she argued in the High Court that the lack of clarification on the law was a breach of her human rights.

But two High Court judges ruled they had not been infringed and existing guidelines were adequate.


Ms Purdy is still considering travelling to Switzerland to take a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by Dignitas doctors.

She wants her husband at her side, but fears he may be prosecuted on his return to Britain.

As a result, she says she may have to make the trip earlier than she really wanted.

Speaking to BBC Look North, Ms Purdy said she want the High Court to clarify the law at the appeal hearing on Tuesday.

"I can't imagine a situation under which they would say 'no we're not prepared to tell you what the law is' and I can't allow myself to think that," she said.

It is not the first time the issue has been raised in the courts.

In 2001 Diane Pretty, who had motor neurone disease, failed to get immunity from prosecution for her husband if he helped her to die in the UK.

Several attempts to legalise suicide in Britain have also been rejected.

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