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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Is assisted suicide a human right?
A terminally-ill woman has taken her case to be allowed to die to the High Court in London.

Diane Pretty, 47, suffers from the incurable degenerative disorder motor neurone disease and believes that her quality of life is so low that she has the right under human rights legislation to choose to die.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) has refused to rule out prosecuting her husband Brian if he helps her to commit suicide.

The couple's children say their mother is entirely clear about her decision but is physically unable to take her own life without assistance.

Should assisted suicide be allowed in such cases? Is the choosing the right to die a human rights issue?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

We need to be very careful here with assisted suicides. I think in this case it is fairly obvious that this is the humane thing to do. But there is a very fine line between assisted suicide and murder. Any law changes must be carefully thought through.
Simon Bradshaw, UK

Over five years ago my Aunt contracted motor neurone disease. One year later she did end her life peacefully. We remember her for her passion and her zest for life. It was her decision, and I find utter outrage for people who try to condemn this course of action. She knew that her health would rapidly deteriorate and she saved this pain both from herself and from her family members. A person's life is their own to choose.
Anon, England

If there was a God there is no way on earth (he/she) would allow such diseases to exist

Nick, UK
The few people here who have used the "religious" card in their argument against suicide or "assisted suicide" really should take stock of the words they are using. If there was a God there is no way on earth (he/she) would allow such diseases as MND/ALS, cancer, Parkinson's, MS etc to exist. I have every sympathy for Mrs Pretty and her family as I have seen my father die of MND and my mother die of ovarian cancer. But if I have any experience in this matter it is to know that she does not want sympathy she wants her dignity.

So please grant her her last dignified wish and that is to end her life before the suffering becomes too much on her and her family. Best of luck to her and her family and all those in similar situations. I wouldn't wish what they are going through on anyone.
Nick, UK

Who are we to decide that this lady should suffer in pain and without dignity? If release is her wish then it is simply wrong that we should say no, you must suffer, because WE don't like the idea of YOU having the right to choose. I too would hope and pray for her recovery, but if I were in her situation, I'm sure I would want the right to choose.
Simon Watson, UK

The worst thing the civilised society can do. I think the best way is to try as much as possible to rescue the humane life, rather than helping to kill.
Adrian K.M. Nyengella, Tanzania

We do not choose to be born but I believe we should respect people's wishes if they choose to die. I genuinely believe that life is a gift and we should make the most of every opportunity we are given. However, having seen both my parents die painful deaths, I truly believe that people should be allowed to die with dignity and that there is no one better to decide when the pain becomes too much than the person themselves. In Diana Pretty's case I do not feel that her husband should be the one to assist her to die. A qualified doctor should be allowed to without the possibility of prosecution.
Gwen Delahaye, Surrey,UK

Life should be enjoyed and not suffered

Jonathan, England
What purpose does it serve to allow a person to die in agony and without dignity and comfort. Life should be enjoyed and not suffered. So let Diane Pretty rest in peace. We should be merciful and humane towards unfortunate people like this. It is evil letting these people suffer.
Jonathan, England

While I have much sympathy for any terminally ill patient because of all the non-stop suffering, I cannot condone the deliberate taking of a life. I think the High Court entertaining such a decision is again diminishing the value of life. We cannot go around providing an escape route for everyone who believes that they should not have to live with certain conditions, no matter how terrible they are. In the final analysis, the message we are sending is that each individual has the right to end his or her own life, or someone else (with the assistance of a spouse in this case) if we believe the quality of life is diminished. God is the only giver and taker of life and we need to stop acting as little gods. What Britain needs to focus on is how to provide more money for research into these type of debilitating illnesses. I will pray for her recovery, not her death.
E. Dickson, USA

Like most of the people who have replied to this "Talking Point", I agree that Mrs Pretty must be allowed to end what must be an unimaginably horrible existence, provided that a professional is willing to accept the task of assisting her. I would however like to make a point; my father died of cancer (malignant melanoma) in 1985, in a very fine hospice, and in retrospect I am very glad that neither I nor any of his other relatives were asked to consider this option. Please, let there be a full and public debate on this!
Graham Giles, UK

It is human nature to want to get rid of those who cost too much

Andrew P, USA
Assisted suicide cannot be a 'human right' or else it will quickly become an obligation. It is human nature to want to get rid of those who cost too much. Allowing assistance will just open the door to relatives/heirs or government to terminate those who cost too much, are too much trouble, or have a lot of wealth to be distributed on death.
Andrew P, USA

I definitely feel uneasy about assisted suicide and if pushed I would disagree with it as the system could be open to emotional feelings that could change from day to day. However I do not know what it would be like to be in a position of such distress as someone suffering from advance motor neurone disease. If life is truly unbearable for them, then who am I or anybody to dictate if they should live or die with or without assistance?
Richard Dolan, UK

UK urgently needs a referendum on the subject of euthanasia. Only then will the selfish views of the vociferous minorities be overshadowed by a true people's decision.
Brian Langfield, UK

The problem with assisted suicide is that here must be an assistant. If suicide is a selfish act, euthanasia is doubly so, because it involves giving another person a horrible moral dilemma of whether to help or not.
Tim Green, England

Whatever your views on death, there "are" worst things then death!

Dave, England
I'll tell you what a dignified death is. A dignified death is when you are allowed to leave this world without someone wiping your backside after you've been to the toilet, without having to lay in your own faeces for hours before someone realised, without intolerable pain ripping through your nervous system everytime you try to say something, without having to watch everyone you've ever known look sympathetically at you while you dribble mucus from your mouth. Whatever your views on death, there "are" worst things then death!
Dave, England

The word to remember here is 'voluntary'. There is no question of someone being killed because their family would benefit financially or that they would become a burden. It would be a decision that would be made, or should be made, at a time when a person could declare their wishes in front of witnesses so there could be no doubt.
In reply to Lilian Kimento's argument, I would ask, as an atheist myself who rejects the notion of a God, why should I be constrained because of your beliefs? You believe deeply that God gives and takes life, so if it happens to you, your decision is easy. However, I'm sorry but your opinions have absolutely no bearing on a decision that I would have to take - just as mine wouldn't on yours. All I ask is the opportunity to make a choice.
Rory Simpson, England

Our lives, our choices. Why can't we decide when the suffering ends? I have every sympathy with her and hope that she is allowed to have her choice.
Nick Whittle, United Kingdom

The answer to the question should lie with the lady. It is her choice to end her life due to an incurable misery. While the lady is suffering physically, her husband is suffering emotionally as well.
Valentine Kristanto , Singapore

Possessing the decision to die is no different, and certainly no less important, than making the decision to procreate - and is best left in the hands of the individual, not the state.
Justin, United States

Assisted suicide cannot be a human right, because, it is likely to be misused

Ani, India
Assisted suicide cannot be a human right, because, it is likely to be misused.
Suicide may be correct in Diane's case but that doesn't mean that everybody should be given the right to end their lives. Sometimes depression forces people into committing suicide and depression is certainly not painful nor is it fatal. So if the person is in a state where she or he will suffer a lot of pain and die a slow and a painful death, I believe we should let the person take the final decision.
Ani, India

I hope that if I am dying of a debilitating and painful disease, that my family and friends will give me so much love and care, and the professionals ensure best possible pain control, that I will value every minute of my life.

And I hope that I will do the same for people near to me in similar circumstances. Assisted suicide is, at best, a poor option, and at worst open to lot of potential abuse.
Dave, UK expat in France

People like Diane Pretty should not have to suffer if nursed properly. There is such a thing as pain management with all the modern drugs we now have. It frightens me to think that someone else can have control over whether one lives or dies. We already have ethnic cleansing! How long would it be before we just put people down like sick animals! Let nature take its course.
Gaynor Bonnar, New Zealand

Some 6 years ago I watched my partner die by the minute from Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Anyone touched by this cruel disease will understand what sufferers actually go through.

No one should have to suffer this way. If they choose to end their lives, it is their choice alone, but if the body has failed to such an extent, then help is required in this choice. The brain, unfortunately, does not deteriate along with the body.
Marjorie A Wood, UK

It should be a human right to choose to die with dignity. A few months ago I had to have my cat put to sleep as he was suffering with cancer. We do not want our pets to suffer, why should we not make the same choice for ourselves? Quality of life is what is important. We should have the right to choose if our lives are being made miserable by pain and suffering.
Pam, USA - ex UK

As a Christian my belief is that suicide is wrong, but Diane must make the decision based on the beliefs of herself and her family

Paul, UK
Possessing the decision to die is no different, and certainly no less important, than making the decision to procreate - and is best left in the hands of the individual, not the state.
Justin, US

As a Christian my belief is that suicide is wrong, but Diane must make the decision based on the beliefs of herself and her family, and her wishes should be respected. I think the biggest problem is the way the press publicly reports the matter of suicide as being either right or wrong. I don't see the benefit of this type of public exposure, the choice must be personal. Just because one person commits suicide doesn't make it right, and another choosing not to commit suicide doesn't make it wrong for everone.
Paul, UK

We treat our pets way better than we treat our people, we don't let them suffer. Assisted suicide is the only way to go if the suffering gets to be too much.
Mark, Canada

It is still her right to end it if she wishes it

Valentine Kristanto, Singapore
The answer to the question should lie with the lady. It is her choice to end her life due to an uncurable misery. While the lady is suffering physically, her husband is suffering emotionally as well. However, life is God's most precious gift and although misery exist in this world, God does not like it. I also believe that suicide is an escape from cowardice, although it is still her right to end it if she wishes it.
Valentine Kristanto, Singapore

Anyone who believes a decision like that is taken lightly has never seriously thought about the issue

Iain Alexander, UK
My deepest heartfelt sympathies goes out to Diane Pretty and the hundreds of people in her situation, what we must also remember in cases like this are the close family members, they are the ones who have to watch their loved one, wither and eventually die in a needlessly cruel way, they are ones who must live with the memories all their life. People MUST be given the right to end their life if they so wish, and those who help them should never be prosecuted. To help someone die is a tremendously brave thing to do, and anyone who believes a decision like that is taken lightly has never seriously thought about the issue. Every human being has a right to live, and every human being has a right to die with dignity!
Iain Alexander, UK

I can choose my career, my friends, my lifestyle, what I read, where I go, what I do, what I see. Society dictates a set of rules that allow us to live with one another and to live in peace. These rules do not or should not govern my fundamental rights as a human to think and do as I please. Society should not govern or dictate any fundamental rights of which, ending my life is one. If you allowed to bring a child, a new life into the world without consultation or permission then why shouldn't I be able to end my own?
Chris Lucani, United Kingdom

As a former nurse to the elderly, I have witnessed unbearable suffering (of both patients and relatives) which was quite unnecessary. How anyone can justify prolonging the life of, e.g., a 90+ year old who has lost most/all faculties and has no noticeable quality of life? I find it (a) morally repugnant that (as the old argument goes) we wouldn't allow animals to go through such agony, yet we think that prolonging someone's existence - no matter how utterly miserable - is somehow considered a 'good thing'. Also (b) if we look at it from an economic viewpoint (as we do of most things, these days) then there is no financial sense in prolonging, e.g. my life, if I become seriously ill and incapacitated and I choose not to want to burden anyone. Finally, (c) only around 5% of this population goes to church, with a dwindling number having any sort of spiritual faith, so if the old - and, I believe quite defunct - argument is raised about 'God giveth life...' etc., then I don't think that this can be supported by many people.

In conclusion, then, I would welcome a referendum/healthy debate on this subject, rather than this subject being pontificated on now and again, and then disappearing from the news headlines. In this day and age it's about time we were a bit more honest about such matters.

My life is the only thing I truly own. The thought that someone else controls when I die is abhorrent.
Phil White, UK

Medical expertise can now keep us alive far longer than some of us would wish, and compel us to suffer lengthy illness when there is no hope of a cure. It is now time for us to seize back control over our own bodies and choose the time when WE wish to depart from this world.
Barbara Watton, UK

I cannot imagine, for one second, the awfulness of Ms. Pretty's life; but nor would I have the guts to help her commit suicide. And there's the rub - for all the brave talk on this page, well intentioned, no doubt, to actually "pull the plug" is a massive step for anyone. Hence I have to agree with the Dutch solution ... allow the decision to be carried out by trained professionals in an institutionalised setting - full of bureaucracy and formalities, perhaps, but better than some sordid event carried out in secret.
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

Legalising physician-assisted suicide will change the way our society perceives suicide. We will think of it as good, rather than bad, legal rather than illegal, humane rather than inhumane and dignified rather than tragic. When patient express the wish to die, exploration of the adequacy of palliative care should begin, including assessment of pain management, depression, anxiety, family burnout, and spiritual and existential issues.
Dr. Asha Abdi, Canada

This poor lady is physically unable to take her own life, but look at what her life has become. The quality of her life is very low, and it isn't going to improve. Imagine being trapped in a seriously ill person's body, and not being able to look forward to getting better; just slowly getting worse and worse. Why should we condemn her to die slowly and painfully when she is going to die anyway, but she could die quickly and painlessly. Which is more humane? This lady has every right to ask for assisted suicide. We may not like it, but if you look at it from her point of view, I'm sure you will begin to understand.
Aoife Mansfield, UK

We all have the right to lead our own lives, nobody knows what pain this lady is going through except Mrs Pretty. If she feels that she can no longer take the pain, then she should be given the right to die with dignity if that what she chooses to do.
Mark Watson, United Kingdom

Humane euthanasia for anyone who wishes it is long overdue

Ged, Spain
Anyone who has gone into the question will know that without medical "assistance", practically every suicide method among those commonly employed involves a great deal of pain. It's ironic that an animal can be painlessly "put to sleep", but humans are forced to torture themselves in order to put an end to their lives. In many cases they do not succeed and are left with severe medical problems to cope with on top of everything else. Humane euthanasia for anyone who wishes it is long overdue.
Ged, Spain

Assisted suicide should be legal everywhere in the world. I could deal with Parkinson's Disease better if I knew I had this option. This is what I have done for one my dogs and will do again for my present "care-giver dog" if it becomes necessary. No one should have the right to decide that I must continue to suffer except me.
Rayilyn Brown, United States

It is a problem of our time. Time was when people tended to die of infectious diseases that killed in days or weeks - tuberculosis, typhoid, tetanus and the like - and men died in war, or at sea, or in accidents and women in childbirth. Nowadays many people die of lingering, wasting diseases like motor neuron disease, cancer or Aids. It is simply time to reconsider the total ban on assisted death. The essential problem is to make sure that the decision to die is entirely voluntary and not frivolous.
Peter, Netherlands

Put quite simply, the law apparently has more right to your life than you do. As shown by these comments, the vast majority of people want their rights restored. A case for the European courts as this is currently a blatant breach of our human rights.
A Walker, England

In these days of incredibly advanced technology it is surely possible to create a means for a person with no movement and no speech to still administer the final drug themselves? As a person who is nursing a much loved partner through MND I am concerned for Mr Petty's state of mind if he does go ahead with this. He has a long time to live with himself when this is all over and he begins to grieve.
Margaret, Scotland

I have nothing but compassion towards this lady

Louise, England
Having watched my father die a slow, painful, humiliating death at the hands of Motor Neurone Disease, I have nothing but compassion towards this lady. MND is a disease that causes its sufferer to die like a prisoner: a sound mind trapped in a withered body.
Louise, England

Why do we allow terminally ill patients to suffer if all they want is release from their unbearable agony? Surely patients who, for example, can no longer move, or control personal functions, or swallow, or even speak, but must just lay in bed often suffering bed sores, should be able to be helped to a peaceful and dignified end to life when they ask for this. The Human Rights Act does not live up to its title when suffering, terminally ill persons are denied the Right To Choose.
Daphne Bampton, England

If you want to end your life, ill or not, why hang-on. The idea would be simple. Ask the state or loved one in advance, say two weeks, if you change your mind - okay. However, if you don't, assisted suicide should be offered. We have no say in being born, so why not have a say in our death!
Robert, England

I do not understand how assisted suicide can be a 'right'

Lawrence, The Netherlands
I do not understand how assisted suicide can be a 'right'. That implies that you have the right to require someone else to assist. If, on moral grounds, no one were to volunteer to assist, would the law force them to assist, against their own conscience, in order to comply with the so-called right of the potential suicide?
Lawrence, The Netherlands

I have no objection to Mrs Pretty's decision, and my sympathies are with her. However, it has to be realised that while this may be an individual case, the whole of society is affected, especially if the decision to make euthanasia legal is brought to court. Having studied this topic in some depth in school, my initial sentiments were altered when I realised that many complex issues, not simply that of human rights, are affected as well, and it is not easy to come up with a black and white argument for this.

When one reads about shocking cases where family members coerce, or subtly force euthanasia upon the victim for financial or other reasons (the victim being a burden on the family etc) - and there are numerous examples of these horrific acts - one cannot help but be more cautious and deliberate when making a conclusion.
Irene, Singapore

Why let brave souls who are suffering beyond belief continue to face the pain?

Thomas Taylor, England
Incurable diseases causing pain and suffering is unbearable to imagine. I appreciate the medical profession's ethos is to save life, however is drugging someone to the point of virtual unconsciousness, just to stop the pain, the answer? Some unfortunate person in this situation, theoretically, has no life. Let the individual have the decision. Why let brave souls who are suffering beyond belief continue to face the pain when all they want to do is slip away to stop the agony?
Thomas Taylor, England

I believe that euthanasia should be a legal right of every human being just like dying with dignity is. People who are perfectly healthy are free to decide whether they want to live or not and since a suicide is not a crime no one can stop anybody else from committing one. It becomes more complicated with people who are not capable of committing suicide but their mind works well enough to make such a decision. We can't force doctors to help patients to leave this world if they don't want to but the closest relatives should be allowed to help suffering patient to die peacefully as long as the decision is made by the patient themselves. I think that all people who are now against euthanasia would change their minds quickly if they were in Mrs Pretty's situation.
Marcin Kost, Poland

Anyone who argues against Diane Pretty's wish should place themselves in her position

Pat, UK
Anyone who argues against Diane Pretty's wish should place themselves in her position, not just for a minute or an hour, more like a day or a week. We must have compassion for patients as it is they who have to live with the pain, the hurt and the frustration. Any decision must be theirs and theirs alone.
Pat, UK

In our life even to decide what is right or wrong is itself a difficult problem. To decide if euthanasia is a human right or not poses a significant ethical dilemma. Thinking about euthanasia you can think of a lot of things, legal or not, religious or not, correct or not, but the important thing is to do what you believe. When the quality of life is really low, people should have the possibility to decide whether to live or to die. For that reason I believe in euthanasia because life is important, but only if you can live with dignity!
Piero Romeo, Italy

How simple it is to condemn someone to months or years of pain, suffering, immobility and indignity, without ever having to bear those burdens yourself. The right to end a miserable existence on your own terms is one that should be extended to every member of civilised society.
Rhonda, Trinidad and Tobago

How simple it is to condemn someone to months or years of pain, suffering, immobility and indignity, without ever having to bear those burdens yourself. The right to end a miserable existence on your own terms is one that should be extended to every member of civilised society.
Rhonda, Trinidad and Tobago

Darren Sharrocks - you have said that "Death is as natural as being born, so why should people have the right to kill themselves?" I believe you have answered your own question, after all, if death is natural, then why are people so horrified at the thought of ending life?
Jane, London, UK

Euan. It is commonly accepted that one can choose to commit suicide. It has been legal since the 1960's. While in individual cases it may seem only fair and humanitarian to allow assisted suicide the dangers of making this a general rule are huge. Practical concerns, while not arousing emotion in the same way as cases such as Diane Pretty's, are still extremely important.

It's not this woman's right to die that is in question. That she has the right to do. The problem is that she needs the help of her husband and there is no provision under English law for euthanasia. It is ridiculous that if she was well enough to kill herself then she could, but if she was well enough she probably wouldn't want to. Her husband would be guilty of murder with no defence that I can think of. But surely if the law allows Mr Pretty to kill his wife it would have to allow others to do the same thing (a dangerous thing for wives I would have thought!) The issue is therefore whether we can give somebody permission to kill us and whether the law should reflect that. I personally think that it would have to be one very well worded piece of legislation.

I am also interested to note that everyone has decided that this is Mrs Pretty's human right to die. It is very interesting that in a country that has incorporated the European Convention of Human Rights but seems hell bent to ignore it that we feel we have any human rights at all. If you think about it, they are very few and far between.
Emily, UK

My life belongs to me, not to the state. I did not ask to be born, nor am I doing the state a favour by continuing to live. If, as a sane and rational human being, I choose to end my life, whether terminally ill or not, it is "my" choice and not that of the state. It should be remembered that until the advent of Christianity suicide in old age or infirmity was quite respectable and by no means uncommon in civilised societies. Give me one valid non-religious objection to this.
Euan Gray, UK

They just want her to be given the right to choose death with dignity

Su Dickens, Qatar
Simon Ashall - You quote Prof. Stephen Hawking as an example of someone with the disease who feels the quality of his life is worth staying around for - good for him. But let's not forget that he is financially secure and feels that he still has a lot to contribute to the world. Diane feels that she does not - nor does she wish to let her family see her turn into a dribbling burden rather than remember her as a normal caring human being.

As for Andy from Scotland mentioning void insurance policies - I can only imagine that Diane's family don't give a flying "whatsit" about money. They just want her to be given the right to choose death with dignity. There is nothing dignified about lying in a hospital bed unable to do or say anything to anyone, waiting for your frail body and mind to just "give up". As for the argument regarding depressives - well they don't need assistance. If they want to take their life, they have the ability to do so don't they?
Su Dickens, Qatar

I believe that every one has the choice of how they live their life. Why should they be forced to live it at all. Although I could not help her to die myself I think she should be able to choose for herself provided she is mentally sound.
Richard, England

It's plainly obvious that most of us support the right to end our own lives in these sort of circumstances. But will anything ever be done about something the entire population feels so strongly about? I doubt it.
Vicki Owens, Wales, UK

Debbie, no I haven't missed the point of this case at all, and neither am I callous or heartless. It is you who has completely missed the point of, and totally misunderstood what I said - Go back and think about it a bit more!
Michael Maguire, UK

The argument against assisted suicide is not a predominantly religious one. As the Walton report concluded in 1996, hard cases make bad law. In many cases, such as this one, it may seem right that the person should have the choice to die Unfortunately the practical problems in setting a precedent are huge. What if someone is unable to make the request but is suffering immensely, would it not be cruel to prolong their life of suffering even though they haven't requested to die? Where do we draw the line? What about the pressure it would put people under if they saw themselves as being a huge burden on their family? Surely we do not want a situation where people feel pressured to choose to die against their will. My gut feeling is that Diane Pretty should be able to choose to die but taking this to the courts is very dangerous indeed.
Ed, England

I felt I had to respond to Michael Maguire who stated that "suicide is just running away from your problems and you will only have to face them again". Has he completely missed the point of this case or is he just unbelievably callous and heartless? Mrs Pretty is terminally ill with a rapid degenerative disease - her "problem" as Mr Maguire describes it, is going to kill her in a horrendous way. We are not discussing assisted suicide for people who have had a bad day at work for heavens sake.
Debbie, England

In this case, I would support an assisted suicide and Miss Pretty's desire to take away her own life. The accepted fact is her sickness is incurable and would continue to make her life miserable as long as she continues to live
David N. Targbe, Republic of Liberia

Having a terminal illness gives you the right to end your live when you want too. Period.
Gary, UK

And will the insurance company with whom this lady's life is insured be happy to pay out under these circumstances. Will the doctor signing the death certificate put down as the cause of death 'Murder/suicide' This issue is wider than simply it's my life and my right.
Gerry, Scotland

I think every human being has the right to decide whether he wants to live or not. It is up to him to choose what is best for his happiness even in case of death. In a secular society, the argument that life is a gift of god and suicide is a deed of disrespect towards him, is untenable.
Vinod Kumar P.M., Cochin, India

I would appreciate my son or daughter putting an end to my misery

Mary Adams, UK
It never ceases to amaze me how some people think they have the right to impose their will on others. A society where everyone imposes their will on everyone else is not the sort of society I will support. We are living creatures - judges and politicians have no call on us finishing our lives when there is a very good reason to do so. I would appreciate my son or daughter putting an end to my misery (I trust them) and as such I would like to empower them to do so if I am clearly suffering. The law has no right to stop this - who do these people think they are!
Mary Adams, UK

Mrs Pretty is a courageous woman. She has suffered immensely and her decision to go to the courts to appeal for her right to die is very brave. I watched both my grandfathers die slowly over a long period of time. My granddad spent the last 8 months of his life praying for death. My nan ran herself ragged and had a near nervous breakdown looking after him at home. If granddad had had the opportunity to end it all with dignity and grace, I do not hesitate to think that he would have taken it. Granddad was an animal lover and often said that if he was a dog he wouldn't have been allowed to suffer so. I pray that Mrs Pretty's wish is granted and that she is soon out of her pain and suffering.
Caroline, UK

Why are the religious fanatics allowed to force their belief on us?

Rune Olwen, Germany
The Pope in Rome has his belief about dying and, because he is prominent, nobody can avoid watching him acting on it. Diane Pretty and I have other beliefs, so why are the religious fanatics allowed to force their belief on us with the penal law of self-appointed secular states?
Rune Olwen, Germany

On the day that reported the death of a hospital patient after nine hours on a trolley waiting for a vacant hospital bed, we read the sad headline story of one kept alive and miserable against her will. It is probable that at the same hospital as the reported death there were long-stay, terminally ill patients pleading for help to finally end their suffering - patients with no hope, cruelly kept alive in beds they dearly wished to vacate. Surely this wickedness cannot be right.
Harry Boswell, England

I have experienced two members of my family dying from degenerative diseases and it was absolutely horrendous

Lucy Lord, England
I have experienced two members of my family dying from degenerative diseases and it was absolutely horrendous. I find it hard to believe that some people disagree with the right of a human being to decide when they want to end their life. Also, does Paul from England misunderstand the whole point of the argument? Mrs Pretty wants the right to die when she chooses, but that will not be at a point when she is capable of doing it herself, hence the need for help from her husband.
Lucy Lord, England

Since it's her wish and her health has deteriorated so much that there is little or no hope of recovering, I feel she must be granted her wish. Sometimes it is just better to die than to go through the pain, especially where there is no hope of recovery!
Chibamba Douty, Zambian student in Brunei Darussalam

"Phil UK" has summed up exactly how I feel about my Father who is also an MND sufferer. One positive thing to come out of this debate is to raise the profile of this awful disease in the hope it will lead to wider research being undertaken to help others who follow.
Diane, Herts. UK

The rich and powerful talk romantically about dignity and suicide but in a country with many poor minorities who lack medical insurance it would be better to allow adequate funding of treatment and hospice, not a quick pill to get rid of the poor and inconvenient.
Nancy Reyes, USA

How can doctors stand by and allow this situation to continue?

Jill, UK
How can doctors stand by and allow this situation to continue? When my grandmother was terminally ill and in great pain her comment was "You wouldn't do this to a dog, how can you do it to me?". I think that says it all. We wouldn't allow animals to suffer like this, why should we force an adult, who is capable of making her own decisions, to suffer this terrible misery?
Jill, UK

Freedom of choice.
Paul, Wales

Voluntary euthanasia is surely an essential human right, isn't it? If everybody has the right to live with pride, dignity and humility, then it is only logical and right that they be given the option to choose to die in the same way. To deny a person this, is immoral and wrong. Anyone who has seen a loved one die must empathise with this woman and her family and I applaud her whole-heartedly for her courage and determination.
Anna, UK

Professor Stephen Hawking has led a full and active life despite being afflicted by this terrible condition. His quality of life may be less than those around him, but he has the insight to realise that life itself is a quality, and that his life is, and will remain, largely what he makes it. I have nothing but sympathy for Diane Pretty, but surely she might find it equally dignified to take heart from the brilliant Hawking.
Simon Ashall, UK

It is a human rights issue

Graham, England
It is a human rights issue, as the prolonging of her agony and misery is 'cruel or degrading treatment'. I am also a sufferer of MND but have been very fortunate in being one of the very few people to have had the disease for over 20 years. At one point in London's National Hospital for Nervous Diseases (as it was then) I was down to 98 lbs and things looked bleak. I contemplated taking my own life but things stabilised. The MND has become active again and I must ponder the future.

If this poor lady does not win the right to a merciful death at the hands of someone who truly loves her and is loved by her, the reality is that people like myself may be forced to take our lives prematurely, while one still has sufficient motor control, in order to avoid compromising a friend, member of the family or doctor. That is unfair on many people. Sadly, the courts are not concerned with justice - they are governed by the law - I fear for the outcome. Please, let humanity prevail.
Graham, England

I have a friend who, like Diane Pretty, is suffering from Motor Neurone disease. The speed at which this degenerative disease takes over is amazing. If my friend was ever to ask for help in ending her suffering, I would fully support her decision. In the right circumstances, assisted suicide should be a fully acceptable alternative to endless suffering.
Anonymous, UK

It is copping out to say individuals should be allowed to kill themselves but society shouldn't help

Michela, UK
It seems to me that it is copping out to say that individuals should be allowed to kill themselves but society shouldn't help. It's actually quite difficult to do away with yourself painlessly, effectively and with the minimum of distress and inconvenience to others, especially if you are in a state of incapacity through illness. I do NOT want to turn this discussion into a forum for exchanging information on methods! but to make the point that if suicide is to be allowed then the facility should be available to make it quick, certain and subject to proper supervision and control.
Michela, UK

A person should not have to suffer unless it is the choice of that person.
Lana, South Africa

He had the chance to say goodbye with dignity

I remember as a child sitting on the edge of my great-uncle's bed as he said goodbye to all of his family. He had the chance to say goodbye with dignity. I look back upon his death with a strange fondness for we had the chance to bid him farewell on his journey and he was able to say goodbye and prepare himself for it. Everyone should have the right to die as they choose, whether we personally believe it's right or not. For it is not our choice, it is theirs.

I'm shocked and pleasantly surprised at the amazing amount of support for assisted suicide in this forum. Assisted suicide, not just suicide committed by the patient, must be legalised to ensure that those who choose to end their lives can do so painlessly and without fear with a professional who knows what he/she is doing.
Patrick, Canada

To JQ, fine, find the way to cure this disease and the world will love you for it. But that will not help Diane Pretty's suffering. She is too far-gone for any cure to save her so let her die with dignity and with her loved ones nearby.
Neil Halliday, UK

Sounds good does it not? The right to die? But think it through. You are opening up a Pandora's box if you make assisted suicide legal. You then have government/ state/ legal sanctioning of "suicides". The chances for abuse are horrendous. Imagine family relatives who want inheritance "early"
John, USA

What is dignified about dying?

Darren Sharrocks, Manchester, UK
What sick people we have on here, stating that this woman should have a "dignified death". Well please tell me, what is dignified about dying? Death is as natural as being born, so why should people have the right to kill themselves? Next we will be saying that a person who is depressed and feels that they cannot cope with life should have the right to end it all.
Darren Sharrocks, Manchester, UK

This issue is a very complicated one. Whilst Dianne Pretty has every right to end her life, her husband does NOT have the right to assist her. According to the law, no one has that right except Diane herself, but she cannot do it. I suggest they should leave it to God. I wish Mrs Pretty all the best.
T. Chitauro, Zimbabwe

It is a tough question. Most religious beliefs are against it. From my own personal experience with my loved ones it is heart wrenching to watch someone suffer so. If there was a living will (at least in the US) the patient's wishes would be and should be followed.
Carol, NY, USA

There is a lot of mistrust of the medical profession lately and I for one question the ethics of any doctor willing to put a human being through torture just so they can claim that they are doing their job and helping them. Some people in such circumstances do survive and these are the cases those doctors quote, but there are 100 times as many people who don't recover and die in terrible agony.

I firmly believe that this IS a human rights issue as it boils down to a person's right to choice. As long as the procedure is carried out properly and the patient is given realistic information such as chances of recovery from an illness, expected quality of life and what to expect when withholding medication or however the ending would happen, then they can make that choice using the information and no one should stand in their way. I wish this lady all the luck in the world and hope she can be free of her pain soon.
Richard, UK

No. Only God who created her life can take it away. All she needs from fellow human beings is prayer and grace to bear the pain.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya.

Put down people like an animal, just to ease their suffering? Next, we'll be putting down people because no one is willing to keep them. I'm old, and this really scares me.
Clive, UK

Keeping people alive beyond natural limits is more horrific

Jonathan Kingsbury, Wales, UK
I have seen my mother die from MS and father from prostate cancer, and can honestly say that anybody who opposes voluntary euthanasia has NO idea of the suffering that prolonging human life can cause. Wake up! and realise that keeping people alive beyond natural limits is more horrific that allowing them to die peacefully. Let nature decide.
Jonathan Kingsbury, Wales, UK

Very much so! The UK seems to be tempted to follow the Dutch example of tolerance towards marijuana, so why not follow the Dutch example of legalising euthanasia, which became law here in March, albeit under very strict conditions.
Barry Freeman, Netherlands

My father has MND - at almost 70, he has taken pride all his life in being active, a "never rest" personality if you like. The horror of the idea of dying slowly, while completely losing his mobility and the ability even to go to the toilet without help should be obvious.

If he asks me at any point to assist in ending his life with a little dignity and I satisfy myself that its a considered decision on his part, then my answer will be yes. If there was any hope, any hope at all, then I would certainly not be saying this but MND offers no such hope. It wouldn't be unwillingness to care for him which would motivate me, rather unwillingness to see him endure the personal suffering and inevitable conclusion which this terrible disease is starting to bring. I certainly wouldn't tell everyone but if going to prison is the price to be paid then I just have to live with it.
Phil, UK

As my fellow Dutchman pointed out earlier, this is why we have a law on this to point out what IS possible and what ISN'T. Last night a lady of the anti-euthanasia group was against the whole thing, is she (or the action group) really that cruel to let a lady exist in such pain.

Why are people refusing these TERMINALLY ill patients a chance to die with dignity. What is the "quality" of live for Diane Pretty?
Marco Venzelaar, Netherlands (lining in London)

I send her my prayers and kindest thoughts

Sue, UK
This poor lady should be allowed to die, if that is her wish. All the people who say she should have taken her own life when she was able are like this lady was before she became so incapacitated. They, like her, have no idea of how awful it can be to live like she is now. I wish her a speedy and peaceful end and send her my prayers and kindest thoughts.
Sue, UK

There are many ways that this lady and her husband can help her die without the police having any evidence to prosecute them. In Monaco, although technically illegal, the authorities recognise that there are areas where the law should take a back seat and let the humane thing happen. Sadly the fact that we have to debate this issue is testament to the control-mad governments we have today.
RV Hosen, Monaco

Assisted suicide is a contradiction in terms

J.Q, London, UK
Assisted suicide is a contradiction in terms. Suicide is the taking of one's own life, and as such is not against the law. The issue in this case is somebody else (husband, doctor or friend) will be required to kill Mrs Pretty. That sounds like murder to me. Every sympathy goes to this young woman and the disease she is facing, but she is not an animal and should not be treated as one. We must show our love by combating her pain, not killing her prematurely.
J.Q, London, UK

Suicide ceased to be a criminal offence a long time ago. Everyone else has the legal right to take their own life if they so wish. There is a view that by preventing this lady and others from acting upon their decision to die, the courts are discriminating against the disabled.

My mother died from Parkinson's, apart from having a terminal disease. She had a terrible death and I have instructed in my will to allow me to die and not to force me to stay alive.
Hazel Ross, Ireland

This is a textbook example of what the Dutch euthanasia law is about.
Ben, Netherlands

We must allow those with terminal illnesses the dignity of a peaceful death

Brendan MacLean, UK
I used to work in a school for disabled children. I met hundreds of young people with various disabilities. On one occasion was I faced with a situation where the idea of death being kind struck me. I was helping a four-year-old boy to eat. He could not accept any solids and was in such pain that his face had a permanent grimace of pain gouged into it. Worst of all, in some awful attempt to alleviate his suffering, morphine had been prescribed and the poor little guy was addicted. Our cure was killing him. My feelings of pity and sorrow for him were overwhelmed by my worry that this situation had not come about as a means of increasing his quality of life, but because we did not possess a moral/legal framework that would allow him the only real release from his suffering.

We must allow those with terminal illnesses the dignity of a peaceful death that friends and family can recall with fondness rather than the horror of a life stretched beyond its limits. We have no right as a society to inflict unnecessary suffering on those who are least able to cope with it.
Brendan MacLean, UK

The first human right mentioned in the European and UN declarations is the right to life. Surely a corollary must be the right to choose when to die. Logically human beings regard the state of life as being preferable to death, and yet when life is such a misery, as in the present case, the choice to be in the other state should be the woman's alone. The next right in the European Convention is the right to freedom from torture and cruel or degrading treatment. Surely this qualifies? And when the sufferer is totally compos mentis, who are we to deny her this wish?
Paul, UK

I believe that Diane Pretty should be allowed to end her life

Sally McHugh, Ireland
I believe that Diane Pretty should be allowed to end her life. I nursed my mother through a terminal illness like Diane's until her death in 1999. It was degrading for my mother to die in such way, not to mention the pain and upset people feel knowing they're going to die anyway. It is inhumane to leave a person like that.
Sally McHugh, Ireland

I have every sympathy for Mrs Pretty and for her family. I have no understanding of what suffering she is going through at the moment and I may be considered unjustified to voice my opinion. I personally think that we need Mrs Pretty to stay alive to give the message to people who may be at the beginning of this dreadful illness that life is worth living no matter what illness or trials in life we may suffer. I wish Mrs Pretty all the best.
Caroline, UK

The right to a dignified death is everyone's right. No one has the right to take that away from you. How many of these pro-life campaigners have had to watch a close relative suffer excruciating pain and loss of dignity? If I had a terminal illness with no possible cure that would mean a slow, painful death, loss of bowel control etc, I would want a dignified ending. Of course there should be controls. It should be medically approved, and supervised by a doctor, but you MUST be allowed this basic right.
Andy, UK

We should have sovereignty over our own bodies

Shipra Prakash, Hong Kong
I ask you one question: Why should a living human being not have the right to do what he or she wants to do with his/her own body? What I mean is, we should have sovereignty over our own bodies.
Shipra Prakash, Hong Kong

Of course she should be allowed to die. I watched my father die of cancer 2 years ago, and at the end he had lost all dignity. The only consolation to the family was that, despite being such a proud man, he was so ill that he no longer understood what was happening to him. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for Mrs Pretty and her family, as she is well aware of everything that is happening to her. I don't believe that anyone can begin to understand what it must be like unless they have lost a member of their family in this way. People who are against euthanasia, but who feel that it is OK to put their sick pets "out of their misery" must value animals over humans.
Josie, Canada/UK

Suicide is just running away from your problems

Michael Maguire, UK
Suicide is just running away from your problems - you'll just be faced with them again until you do learn to deal with them. On the other hand, it's up to the individual to come to this realisation and in the meantime if they want to kill themselves that should be their right and should not be stopped by society. I don't think however, that society should assist. Just leave them to it - it's their choice.
Michael Maguire, UK

I do not believe in voluntary euthanasia. However I do not have the right to decide for anyone else and therefore I think that it should be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Similar to being committed to a psychiatric establishment, two independent medical doctors (psychiatrists) should be able to agree that the quality of life will be permanently at or below that of the level as identified by the sufferer and that prescribed death is the clear and sound-minded wish of the patient.
David, England

I strongly support Mrs Pretty's right to end her own life. Society does not have the right to oblige people to live on when their quality of life is so diminished and they no longer wish to endure it. To force people to live when they have no hope of recovery and no wish to go on is tantamount to torture (because it forces them to suffer) and slavery (because it tells them that their life is no longer their own). Let Mrs Pretty end her life as she wishes - with dignity and love.
Michael Entill, UK

I see AH says "What is happening to this lady is very unfortunate, but many people have suffered in the past and many more will suffer in the future without any such complaint." Is he really accusing her of whinging? What kind of unfeeling person are you? People should suffer in silence?
Matt, England

If people want to die then why don't they do it themselves?

Paul, England
If people want to die then why don't they do it themselves i.e. suicide? Why wait until incapable and then ask somebody to assist, i.e. manslaughter or murder If I had an incurable disease that would continually worsen until death then I would not want to put my friends and family through such a dilemma. Not to mentioned the fact that it would be very dangerous to draw up such legislation. Can you imagine what loopholes may be abused?
Paul, England

I wish this courageous woman every success. It is her right as a human being to decide and no-one else's.
Will, UK

AH from Scotland contends that to artificially shorten your life is against nature - posing possible 'dangers'. But isn't it true that we tamper with nature by artificially extending life every day - through surgery, antibiotics and other medical intervention? How can extending life against the 'will of nature' be acceptable but letting people die with dignity, as they choose, not?
RF, England

How can we possibly claim a breach of our human rights against nature itself? What is happening to this lady is very unfortunate, but many people have suffered in the past and many more will suffer in the future without any such complaint. This is yet another example of the human race trying to alter the ways of nature without even the slightest thought of the dangers it may pose.
AH, Scotland

Of course it is a human rights issue. If we do not have the right to terminate our own lives, the state is telling us we do not own ourselves. A right to suicide is an integral part of the right to life.
Richard, UK

It is as fundamental a right as one can get

Shaun Prior, Scotland
Absolutely. It is as fundamental a right as one can get. We have no choice about when we are born, we at least should have a say in when we die, particularly when our quality of life has deteriorated to that kind of extent. If Moses had brought down "The Ten Basic Human Rights", the right to choose when to die would have been number one.
Shaun Prior, Scotland

Everyone should have the right to end their life when they wish to. Just because Dianne Pretty cannot physically take her own life does that mean that she doesn't have the right to die? If your pet had a disease that left it unable to do anything and in great pain would you leave it to suffer?
Bev Williams, England

It seems criminal that this lady is being denied the right to die. Instead she has to live in torment, unable to do anything for herself and subjecting her family to misery and pain. I think the Pretty family are incredibly brave to stand up and be counted when they know they will surely face a lot of opposition.
Helena, Wales

We should respect this lady's right to choose. I watched my father die of the same disease and by fortune he was able to pass away with dignity with his family beside him. Those people who have not lived through such an experience perhaps cannot understand the decision, but they should respect the right to choose. We permit our animals to be relieved of suffering but not humans. How long must this anachronistic situation continue?
DP, Wales

See also:

20 Aug 01 | Health
Woman fights for right to die
20 Aug 01 | J-M
Motor neurone disease
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