British Woman´s "Right-To-Die" Case Opens

LONDON, Oct 10, 01 ( - Diane Pretty, who is seeking permission for her husband to help her die, today told the High Court she is "frightened and distressed" about the the inevitable effects of her terminal illness.

Pretty, 42, from London, has motor neurone disease, an incurable and progressive illness which will gradually take away her ability to move and communicate with others. She claims her quality of life has become so low that denying her the opportunity to commit suicide is a breach of her human rights.

She is challenging a refusal by the Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, to rule out taking action against her husband of 25 years, Brian, if he helps her commit suicide.

Philip Havers QC, the legal representative for Pretty, told the three judges that her disease was at an advanced stage. He told the court, "She is frightened and distressed at the suffering and indignity which she will have to endure before she dies if the disease is allowed to run its course. She very strongly wishes to control when and where she dies."

He added, "The terrible irony of this case is that her condition prevents her from doing so unaided."

Havers argued that by denying her the opportunity to commit suicide which is available to other citizens, the government was subjecting her to inhuman and degrading treatment, in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As they arrived at court for the first day of the hearing, Brian Pretty told the BBC, "Did it really have to come this far to allow her to do what she wants? It should never have come this far."

Mrs. Pretty is supported by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and the civil rights group Liberty.

But Doctor Richard Lamerton of anti-euthanasia group Alert has warned that if Mrs. Pretty's application is successful, it could set a precedent for doctors killing their patients. He said, "I have considerable sympathy for Mrs. Pretty-- motor neurone disease is awful. But I would hate to endorse Mrs. Pretty's message of despair."

Lamerton, who specializes in hospice care for terminally people, said not all patients despaired. "Most find new depths in relationships, new meanings in life, and enough reasons to go on living," he said. "If we make it legal to kill [Mrs. Pretty] some very dangerous consequences would follow."

The hearing is expected to last at least two days.

CWN - Catholic World News
10. oktober 2001