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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
The right to die: Should euthanasia be made legal?
A terminally ill British woman has lost her final legal bid to be allowed to die.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Monday that the refusal of the British courts to allow Diane Pretty's husband to assist in her death did not contravene her human rights.
The ruling marks the end of a long legal battle for 43-year-old Mrs Pretty, who is in the advanced stages of motor neurone disease.
However, Mrs Pretty's husband Brian and her solicitor have indicated they will now petition the government to change the law.
Assisted suicide is not a crime in some European countries, including Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.
Do you think euthanasia should be made legal? What is your reaction to the Diane Pretty ruling?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
If we are to even begin talking about legalizing euthanasia, there should first be a redefinition of the term especially since 'euthanasia' has been used when talking about the case of Miss B and Mrs Pretty.
Both these women's situations were different in that, technically, Ms B was not killed - her artificial treatment was the only thing keeping her alive and it was eventually removed. She had lost all dignity of life and reached a stage which was, ethically speaking, subhuman. It is a physician's moral obligation to sustain human life for as long as that life remains humanely dignified.
My dad is currently dying of cancer, and if he ask me to help him die, I'd do it regardless of the law because i love him, and nobody in the world is better qualified than him to know when to end it. The law is an ass in Mrs Pretty's case, and my heart is with her.
I feel everyone has the right to choose to die. If the circumstances are intolerable. I find it incredible that animals are put to sleep so as to stop them suffering, WHY are we not afforded the same, we are able to form an opinion on the subject , animals are not yet they die in peace, where as we are left to die in agony, where is the logic or sense in that? It's time this law was changed for our benefit, not to abuse it, but to gain by it.
If Mrs. Pretty believes that the only cure for her illness is for herself to be euthanised, then let her decision stand. The British government should not stand in her way
We all have the right to die a painless and dignified death. God bless her.
I think it would be a bad idea to legalise it however in this case I think it would have been a better option to allow her husband to help her. If I was in the same situation I would help her pass on to the next life when she wants to. I have nothing but respect for them both as they have done anything in their power to get permission. I do not agree with the judges, in effect they are doing just the opposite of what her husband wants to do, what gives them the right to control her life as they have known her for a few weeks, when her husband who has been with her almost forever cannot do a thing to help her?
I do believe that we should all have the right to die at a time of our own choice. My father committed suicide when I was 12 because he was so ill. He felt he had no quality of life and that he wanted dignity. I'm 27 now, and I miss my Dad immensely. But I could never condemn him to live a life of misery and pain which I quite clearly recollect.
Euthanasia should be made legal. Diane Pretty has fought hard for the right to die assisted by her husband. Why are people not allowed to make these very, very serious decisions for themselves? This is after all 20002.
Life is not a "gift", it is an imposition. The only reason for staying alive is because you wish so or do not wish to upset your friends and family.
I really cannot understand how someone can insist that another person suffers a lingering and painful death.
This is the rankest of discrimination against the handicapped imaginable. It is legal to kill oneself. Ms Pretty, lacking the ability to obtain the means herself, is seeking to use her husband as her agent to do so. Had medical science not advanced to the degree it has, she would be dead by now and out of her misery. Having the means to keep people alive does not mean that we have the right to torture them: which is what is being done in this case. Doctors should be required to provide her with the means to release medication into her body to provide a painless death, when she is ready. And if it takes her husband holding her hand over the button and exerting a bit on pressure on it, so be it. He is merely being used by her as a component of her means to commit suicide. He is not murdering her.
Diane pretty wants her husband to help her end her life, which he has agreed to do. Her quality of life is decreasing with every day that passes....this is an exceptional case, like AB I would be cautious in the legalising of euthanasia
A. Parker, UK
I fully believe that anyone with a debilitating, terminal illness has the right to choose when to die. I fully support Diane Pretty's fight for choice.
My mother died of aspiration pneumonia at the end of her motor neurone disease. She could not speak or swallow for nearly two years. She felt isolated, frightened and depressed knowing her fate and not being able to talk about it. Although I wish she had never got the terrible condition, and I still grieve her loss, no-one could want their loved one to suffer like she did. Thankfully she was spared complete indignity and died of pneumonia before she lost the ability to care for herself.
What ever happened to freedom of speech? What ever happened to human rights?
The people who this affects are perfectly capable and of sound enough mental mind to make such a decision, how the judges think they can play God and determine whether or not a person wishes to die with dignity or not is beyond me! The judges who make these decisions have nice cosy, comfortable lives, no health worries! And they are stripping these sick and dying individuals of their dignity and removing their human right to make a choice. If they were able bodied, there is little doubt that they would take their own lives.
Not only that but it is unfair on the families who must suffer by watching their loved ones degrade over time and slowly but surely die away!
There is NO justice here just a bunch of do-gooder judges who are doing little good at all! As usual.
I have a severely brain damaged sister, who came about her injuries by no fault of her own. For the past 7 years, I have had to hear her plead for me to kill her... The reason she wants this, is so her children and family do not suffer anymore. She has no dignity, no self respect, and no way of taking her own life. If she was a dog the vet would have put her out of her misery years ago, but for some reason in this country the law does not mind humans suffering. I think the time has come for a living will, which states that although I am of able body and sound in mind, you never know what's around the corner and I would never want to be a burden to anyone.
Mrs. Pretty has the right to die if she wishes. This case has been about the right of her husband to perform a 'mercy killing' which is a very different situation. This kind of potential change in legislation needs to be considered away from a particular case for any change to be sound. As has been said many times before, "Hard cases make bad law"
She was not asking for the right to die, but for the right for her husband to kill her. If there were laws permitting this I think they would be abused. What if family members tried to kill their relatives because they had become a burden. It's just too dangerous.
Oregon has a "Death With Dignity" law that has been in place for almost 4 years now. It has not been abused, it has allowed a few bright, coherent, but terminally ill people to take legal, prescribed medication to end their suffering. More have applied, and been granted the right than have used it. It seems that just knowing that it can be done if it is wanted, is a comfort.
Some of the many thousands of people suffering from severe illnesses have been expressing their relief that the law does not permit this, as it would lead to a radical change of culture in which those whose quality of life is seriously impaired would be at risk of being treated like pet dogs and cats, and encouraged to consider suicide as a quick solution to the inconvenience which they cause to society and to their carers. Life is too precious to allow legalised termination of life, whatever condition is involved.
There is no question. The right of the individual is absolute. The individual has the ultimate sanction over there own life and death. The culture of the few preaching the rights to the many has NO future. Its your body, your choice, end of story.
I believe the right to choose a death with dignity should be granted to anyone who is seriously (terminally ill) or severely disabled and dependent on others. I have worked in a related health field and visit my local nursing home frequently and have seen the devastation on the body that disease takes on many people in my life, including the agony of cancer. I feel people who object on moral grounds either have not witnessed such debilitation nor reached a point of praying for someone's death. I would want the right to choose a graceful death for myself.
Accounts of torture and suffering from medieval times to the present day horrify normal human beings and yet Mrs Pretty and her husband are condemned to endure their private hell that cannot be alleviated by our genuine respect and admiration. If, under such extreme circumstances, people are not permitted to make their own decisions, how can we possibly talk of Democracy and Freedom and claim to have progressed in Knowledge and Understanding?
Stacey Turner, American in the UK
Having cared for my husband who was dying from Motor Neurone Disease I would suggest that anyone sitting in judgment should spent a week watching how patients suffer. They should have the right to die if they are found to be in sound mind.
Human life needs to be protected by law from conception until natural death. The government should not condone or allow people to kill others or themselves.
What would we do to someone who takes his own life? Would we imprison such a person? No. Does such a person have anything to fear from us if he/she does not fear death? No. This is not about a right to die. This is about polluting society's values. Therefore, such people want to enlist the moral consciences' of decent people who hold that life is valuable.
Charlie (UK) - You're talking a load of rubbish - there is no difference between "Miss B" and Diane Pretty - both are/were people whose mental capabilities were unimpaired who wished to end their lives. "Miss B" asked to be allowed to discontinue receiving medication to end her life, and Diane Pretty is asking for her husband to carry out her wishes to end her life.
You, on the other hand, could do with getting a life.
There is a huge fundamental difference is the case between Miss B and Mrs Pretty. I believe a social services department should be in existence whereby patients and their families can draw up a legal agreement containing certain specifications. When a patient reaches certain conditions, social services step in to end the suffering. This may an idealistic view but it what I believe would have worked for my grandfather who, instead had to endure a slow and painful death drawn out over many years.
This is a human rights crime against Mrs Pretty. She has clearly stated that she lives a life of pain and misery, she has also stated her only wish is to die in a painless dignified way with her family close to her. These so called 'civil rights' & 'religious' people are nothing more than evil busy bodies with nothing better to do than stick their noses into other peoples lives.
Everybody should be allowed to decide for themselves
It should be legalised. Having watched several relatives die of Cancer with all the medicines etc that are available now, I would want the choice. They were miserable and wanted to die. There was no doubt they were going to and they suffered. As a Christian, I cannot see that is what God or the Lord Jesus would have wanted for people.
It is not easy watching someone you love and admire fade slowly and painfully away. The last 18 months of my father's life were hard - harder for him, true, than for me. But just because it was hard, should that give me the right to kill him? In those days spent by his side our relationship grew and strengthened. God forbid that we start equating people with animals, though it seems some do not seem to grasp the complete difference. I pray to Jesus to heal Diane Pretty and to fill her heart with the strength that only He can give.
When people make their will, they should specify the conditions under which they would want someone to assist with their suicide. If no conditions are specified then each case should be individually judged.
In a civilised society, we should be able to accommodate the needs of individuals who wish to die in peace with dignity. What is to be gained by imposing an undignified death? A 'collective' clean conscience?
Legalising voluntary euthanasia would inevitably lead to involuntary euthanasia. When we agree that a conscious rational person can say that they are better off dead, we are then forced to say that some of the unconscious, irrational people in our society the severely disabled, the demented, the comatose also have lives that aren't worth living.
Life is a gift--and even a life of pain can be used to change the world. We do not choose to be born and I do not believe we have the "right" to choose when we die.
I think that human beings so ill that they will never recover from the illness they have should have the right to end their life, rather than spend the last part of their life depressed wishing they could end it.
Sadly she cannot refuse treatment - she cannot move, so anything she says will be ignored by someone who'll just give her the treatment anyway. If she refuses to eat, they'll put her on an IV, etc.
I can't believe she lost the case, I really can't. How dare other people decide what's best for her? She has made a decision, how can someone else tell her she's wrong?
Euthanasia should not be legalised. Changing the law would not be in the interests of the vulnerable and elderly, as evidenced in Holland. Life has a natural end and it's important to recognise this. Patients should not be kept alive at all costs, and UK law recognises this. Diane Pretty's case is a tragedy but hard cases do not make good law.
We have to look at Mrs Pretty's situation in perspective. It is not her right to die that is being refused, it is the right for anyone else to kill her that is being refused. Obviously she is unable to kill herself because of her awful affliction, but that doesn't make it right for someone else to do it for her because that is murder.
Yes. Who is anybody else to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body?
Whether it's drugs, suicide, euthanasia, earrings, tattoos....
Yes, there should be proper checks to make sure the system is not being abuses, but ultimately nobody should have the right to tell me I must live.
I think Diane pretty should have the right to die. Why should anyone suffer the indignity that she has to suffer routinely?
The case was not about Mrs Pretty's 'right to die' but the right of her husband to 'assist' her without legal repercussion. It is legally permissible for a person to refuse medical treatment; it is another thing entirely for someone else to kill them. Legislation of this sort (like most rushed-through legislation) would be hideously open to abuse.
If I should fall terminally ill and I choose to end my own life there is not a court in the world that would stop me from doing it. It would be my choice and that would have to be accepted.
The essence of human life is to be able to live a dignified life. When some law forces you to continue living in intense pain and humiliation there is something wrong with our society. Why should we prolong the life of one who is suffering and has decided without undue pressure that she would like to rest? Legalization of Euthanasia should not include anyone wanting to end their life at the flimsiest excuse after all life is sacred but one should be able to decide that they have had enough suffering.
If any human being with feelings and conscience can look into Diane's face and rule against her deepest wish for freedom, then I believe we have failed as a race. How can one not grant this destiny stricken, desperately helpless but conscious woman her final wish to be released from suffering if even animals enjoy this right, often even without being asked? Let her go!
Paul, Stafford, UK
There should be a right to die. After all animals are put out of their misery quickly and efficiently so why not humans? However there has to be protection for some but I am sure that a lot of Alzheimer's sufferers would choose to die.
I wonder if the judges and Peter of the USA would change their opinion if they were in intense pain themselves. My sympathies are entirely with Diane Pretty.
Everybody has a right to decide what to do with their lives. How can a court or somebody else who never experienced the agonies of terminal illness have the right to decide what others should do?
It's interesting that none of the people who are 'pro-life' have had this experience themselves. I would like to hear their views if it was their partner, or, more to the point, themselves who were suffering. All life is sacred, but ending it should be the individual's choice, and nobody else's.
Adam Aquilina, Malta
I don't think that anyone, even the terminally ill, has a right to die. This implies that life has no meaning. If life does have a meaning, then suffering is included in that meaning. Everyone suffers, some to a greater visible degree, and some less. It is whether suffering is accepted that is the issue, and the meaning of the suffering in an individual's life.
The only thing that would allow anyone to take somebody's life would be the ability to give life in return. And so far no one has figured that one out.
What would you do if this was your mother?
I cannot understand a government that wishes to legalise drugs but will not legalise the right to die a painless and dignified death.
I would like to ask Alan, UK, if he has ever witnessed the horrifying death caused by starvation. Probably not.
To Alan, UK. How is Mrs. Pretty supposed to be able to refuse food and medical attention? She can hardly move or speak. What you are suggesting would be meaningless. You offer her or anybody else in the same position the choice of dieing slowly and painfully from a debilitating incurable disease or dieing slowly and painfully from starvation and lack of decent medical attention.
It's not the 'right to die' that's been denied, it's the right for someone else to kill you. She has the 'right to die' by denying herself food, drink and medical attention.
We wouldn't keep an animal or a pet under these circumstances. In fact we would be dragged into court for doing such a cruel thing so why should humans be any different. Suffering is suffering at the end of the day. Mrs Pretty should have the right to choose, like we all should.
For God's sake let the poor woman decide. How would you like it?
Almost all the comments included so far are pro-euthanasia, and to a point I would agree.
However, I am very concerned that should we legalise it, the scope for abuse of this law will be great.
Could Mrs Pretty get her wish by becoming a Jehovah's Witness?
They see to be able to reject any medical intervention that contravenes their beliefs - almost to a ridiculous extent. (Blood transfusions etc).
We all have the right to die. Nobody has the right to be killed.
19 Mar 02 | Health
Q&A: European Court of Human Rights
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