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EDITIONS
Euthanasia Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 16:24 GMT
Fighting for the right to die
Annie Lindsell died of motor neurone disease
Euthanasia campaigners claim that Annie Lindsell's court battle for the right to die with dignity was a landmark.

Ms Lindsell, who died of motor neurone disease in December 1997, was worried her last days would be racked by pain.

Her greatest fear was the prospect of suffocating or choking to death when breathing and swallowing became difficult.

With only weeks to live, she asked the High Court to rule that if this happened, her doctor could intervene and administer diamorphine - without fear of prosecution - even if it might shorten her life.

Mental distress

She withdrew the case in October 1997 after she established the principle that doctors could legally administer life-shortening drugs for the relief of mental as well as physical distress.

She was assured that her doctor would not allow her to suffer unneccesarily and a treatment plan was agreed which followed best medical practice.

Ms Lindsell, aged 47, said at the time that the outcome was an important victory for patient autonomy and human rights and she hoped it would mean "brave doctors" would no longer have to fear prosecution from police.

She died without recourse to the treatment plan. She had only been diagnosed in 1992.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society said the case had clarified the law over passive euthanasia in the UK and had given patients the right to decide when life-sustaining treatment should be stopped.

And members believe it is a step in the direction of legislation on active euthanasia, where a doctor intervenes to end life where a patient is in a great deal of pain.

Motor neurone disease is a condition which destroys the nerves that enable people to control their movements while leaving the intellect and senses generally unaffected.

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