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Mother defends rugby suicide son

18 October 08 13:15 GMT

The mother of a paralysed rugby player who died in a Swiss assisted suicide clinic had defended in an e-mail debate her son's right to die, it has emerged.

Daniel James, 23, of Worcester, died on 12 September, and police have since confirmed they are investigating.

His mother Julie e-mailed the Daily Telegraph's website on 4 October, urging readers not to judge him.

She also criticised a woman - described as "well meaning" - for reporting their journey to Switzerland to police.

Mr James's mother and father Mark, from Sinton Green, Worcester, are under investigation over the death.

Their son suffered a collapsed spine in a scrum during a training session at Nuneaton Rugby Club in March 2007, which left him paralysed from the chest down.

Earlier this month Julie James e-mailed the Telegraph website in response to a separate debate about the story of Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis and is fighting for clarification of the law on assisted suicide.

Mrs James's e-mail said her son felt he had no option other than to travel to the clinic.

"We returned from Switzerland on the 12 September after accompanying our... son who had been left tetraplegic after a rugby accident," she wrote.

"Dan found his life so unbearable and had tried to commit suicide three times, other than to starve himself to travel to Switzerland was his only option.

"Whilst we were away some 'well meaning' person involved with social services took it upon herself to call the police.

"This person had never met Dan before or after his accident and obviously gave no consideration for our younger daughters who had seen their big brother suffer so much, and the day before had to say goodbye to him.

"I hope that one day I will get the chance to speak to this lady and ask if she had a son, daughter, father, mother, who could not walk, had no hand function, was incontinent, and relied upon 24-hour care for every basic need and they had asked her for support, what would she have done?!

"Our son could not have been more loved and had he felt he could live his life this way he would have been loved just the same but this was his right as a human being, nobody but nobody should judge him or anyone else."

'Fear and loathing'

Speaking after news emerged of the police inquiry, Mrs James and her husband said their son - who also played for the England Universities and England Students rugby teams - did not want to live a second-class existence.

They described him as an intelligent young man of sound mind, who was strong-willed and determined.

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

Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK, although the practice is tolerated by the authorities in Switzerland.

Under UK law, helping somebody die carries a sentence of up to 14 years. But no relatives of the 100 UK citizens who have gone to Dignitas clinics to die have been prosecuted.

Debbie Purdy, 45, who has multiple sclerosis, is considering going to Switzerland if her pain becomes unbearable.

But she is fighting to have the UK law clarified so she can avoid her husband being prosecuted on his return for assisting her.

According to campaign group Dignity in Dying Mr James is believed to be the youngest person from Britain to have gone to Switzerland to take his own life.

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

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