Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 19:50 UK

Reaction to right-to-die ruling

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

A woman with multiple sclerosis has made legal history by winning her battle to have the law on assisted suicide clarified.

The Law Lords' decision in Debbie Purdy's case does not decriminalise assisted suicide, but former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said it was now clear that in certain cases there would be no prosecution.

The issue is a highly contentious one and the ruling has triggered strong reactions from both sides of the debate.

FORMER LORD CHANCELLOR, LORD FALCONER

It's a very significant judgment. What the Law Lords have said is it's a basic human right to know where you stand on what's lawful and what's not.

When it's a case of compassionate assistance, as it plainly is in Debbie's case, then there won't be a prosecution.

It's not changing the law, but it is in practice carving out an area where no proceedings will be brought in a criminal court.

I think you are dancing on the head of a pin in one sense if you are saying it's not changing the law.

SARAH WOOTTON, DIGNITY IN DYING

This historic judgment ensures the law keeps up with changes in society and crucially provides a more rational deterrent to abuse than a blanket ban which is never enforced.

That must be better than the current legal muddle.

DR EVAN HARRIS MP, CAMPAIGNER FOR ASSISTED DYING

This is a real boost for the campaign to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill.

It's now time that politicians start listening to public and legal opinion, and take steps to protect the interests of those vulnerable people who know their own mind, recognise it's their own life, and want to choose a death with dignity.

SPOKESMAN, CARE NOT KILLING

The court has also recognised that it is Parliament's responsibility to make the law and that this judgment is designed simply to improve clarity in the way the law is administered.

Parliament has recognised only three weeks ago, in its substantial rejection of Lord Falconer's amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill, that there are serious public safety implications involved in creating loopholes in the law to meet the wishes of a determined and strong-minded majority.

PHYLLIS BOWMAN, RIGHT TO LIFE

They have changed primary legislation without any reference to Parliament.

They have declared that it is lawful for somebody to help a person to commit suicide abroad - but not at home.

We would like to know what is the difference in the intention or the crime - apart from where it was carried out.

We do not intend to leave the matter there. We will be consulting with our lawyers to see what possible action can be taken.

NICK CARTWRIGHT, MEDICO-LEGAL EXPERT

The House of Lords judgment fails to address the question whether travelling abroad with a loved one is the criminal act of assisted suicide, however it does require the DPP [Department of Public Prosecutions] to publish guidelines as to how he makes a decision to prosecute, or not.

Any guidelines will have to clearly set out the circumstances in which loved ones would not be prosecuted, giving reassurance to potentially thousands who would have otherwise been deterred and opening the way to decriminalised suicide tourism.



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SEE ALSO
MS woman wins right-to-die fight
30 Jul 09 |  Health
MS woman 'facing dilemma'
02 Jun 09 |  Health
Woman loses assisted suicide case
19 Feb 09 |  Health
Dignitas: Swiss suicide helpers
14 Jul 09 |  Health

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