Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 16:33 UK

Player's assisted suicide probed

Daniel James
Daniel James was paralysed during a training session

Police are investigating the death of a paralysed rugby player who travelled to a Swiss assisted suicide clinic.

Daniel James, 23, of Worcester, died on 12 September in a clinic where he had travelled with the intention of killing himself, an inquest heard.

West Mercia Police said a man and a woman had been questioned.

Mr James' parents said that their son had tried "several" times to kill himself before he "gained his wish". Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK.

However, the practice is tolerated by the authorities in Switzerland.

The parents defended their son's decision, saying he was "an intelligent young man of sound mind" who was "not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence".

The clinic Dignitas, where all known British assisted suicides have taken place, said that due to privacy laws it could not disclose whether Mr James was one of its members.

BBC News correspondent Fiona Trott said there were reports that the man and woman being questioned were Mr James' mother and father, although this had not been confirmed by the family's solicitor.

Mr James played rugby for England Under 16s and England students and was tipped for a future in the professional game.

But during a training session at Nuneaton Rugby Club he suffered a collapsed spine in a scrum in March 2007.

The former pupil at Worcester Royal Grammar School was paralysed from the chest down.

'Investigation ongoing'

An inquest into his death was opened and adjourned on 19 September.

A trust set up in his name after his accident has raised nearly 25,000 for spinal research.

Det Insp Adrian Todd, of West Mercia Police, said: "A police investigation is ongoing and officers have spoken with a man and a woman in connection with the case.

"A report will later be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service and an inquest into the death will take place in due course."

Daniel James (Centre)
Mr James (centre) played for England Under 16s and England students

BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes, in Berne, said assisted suicide has raised issues of concern in Switzerland.

She said it was permitted as long as the person carries out the act themselves and the helper has no "direct interest".

Dignitas offers help to people to end their lives if they are suffering a terminal illness, a chronic condition (including paralysis) or a mental illness.

The only stipulation is that a patient has expressed a wish to die and this has been certified by a doctor.

But the actions of Dignitas have provoked controversy and disquiet in Switzerland.

The issue of assisted suicide is now the subject of a government inquiry, the results of which are expected to be released early next year.

The inquiry will look at the counsel and care provided by assisted suicide groups and the practice of offering assisted suicide to non-Swiss citizens.


SEE ALSO
Dignitas: Swiss suicide helpers
24 Jan 06 |  Health

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