Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 18:59 UK

Husband calls for euthanasia law

Elaine Witt
Cancer patient Elaine Witt went to Switzerland to end her life

A Kent man is calling for a change in the law about assisted suicide after his wife travelled to Switzerland to take her own life last year.

David Witt, of Tonbridge, went to a euthanasia clinic with his terminally ill partner, to help her to die.

He has said UK law should be changed so people are not forced to travel abroad.

It follows legal action by a woman with multiple sclerosis, who wants to end her life but fears her husband may be prosecuted if he assists her.

Debbie Purdy, of Bradford, is waiting for the judges' ruling after the hearing at the High Court earlier this month.

'Rights denied'

Mr Witt said: "I think personally that the English law is very unfair.

"It permits suicide to anyone regardless of their motive, whether it's simply a whim or a moment of excess.

"Yet we deny this right to the one group of people who most desperately need it, those who are dying and in agony and who are so weak that they are trapped in their bodies.

"And in that situation the law criminalises people who help them. And I do believe that needs to change."

He said his wife, Elaine, was 56 when she took the decision to die and travelled to the Swiss suicide organisation Dignitas with her husband and two sons.

'Society should care'

Dr Rob George, from the organisation Care not Killing, said the difficulty in changing the law was that it would be abused.

He said: "Society should be committed to caring for people, to working with them, assisting them, and facilitating them in living until they die."

He added: "I'm just saddened really that we were not able to or perhaps never had the opportunity to provide good symptom control and care to Mrs Witt and her family."

And he said: "All I know is that of the 20,000-plus patients I've looked after, I can count the number of people who seriously wanted to end their life because we couldn't manage their symptoms, on less than the fingers of both hands."

Dignitas: Swiss suicide helpers
24 Jan 06 |  Health

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