Sunday, 2 August 2009

Debbie's breakthrough

After years of legal action, Debbie Purdy has won a court ruling that may make it easier for someone to help her commit suicide - in this case, her husband Omar.

At the moment the law on assisting suicide is so unclear that the helper risks being jailed for up to 14 years. Yet in practice such helpers are seldom prosecuted.

Debbie, who has multiple sclerosis and wants to end her life if it becomes unbearable, has gained a ruling that the government must clarify the law and explain when it would prosecute someone.

She was concerned that if Omar simply helped her to fly to the suicide centre Dignitas in Switzerland, as she couldn't manage the journey herself, he would end up in jail and his own life would be ruined.

On the face of it, a great victory for people like Debbie who feel legal obstacles are limiting their ability to manage their own life - and death.

However, there's now a lot of concern that whatever guidelines are issued may relax the law to such an extent that it will be abused and wealthy grannies will be casually got rid of by money-grabbing relatives.

But that's no reason to bring in ultra-strict guidelines that make assisted suicide as difficult as before. It just means there should be adequate safeguards against abuse - like two doctors having to give their okay.

Anything that makes it easier for someone facing agonising pain and suffering to end their life with dignity whenever they wish to should be welcomed, despite the risk of the law being abused.

Expecting people simply to put up with their lot as best they can, however traumatic it may be, is inhuman and uncivilised.

Photo: Debbie Purdy and her husband Omar Puente


  1. Animals are not allowed to linger and suffer so why should humans? I hope sensible decisions are made SOON!

  2. Nick, I agree with you. I don't even have my usual lengthy maunderings to offer...I just agree.

  3. Grannymar - Exactly, why should humans have to suffer worse indignities than animals?

    Leah - It's hard to see why anyone would want the present distressing situation to continue.

  4. It's awful to think that wanting to be by her side when she 'does the dead' could be an offence. I hope this really draws the line in the sand. She's a brave young lady and he's a very sensitive man.

  5. Baino - I hope it draws a line in the sand too, but I fear this dopey government will just produce another vaguely worded document that causes more confusion.

  6. I've given this a lot of thought over the years Nick and I believe government sanctioned euthanasia centres would solve the ethical dilemma. As GM says, we treat our animals with more dignity than sick and suffering humans and all to appease a mythical deity's rulebook.
    Good on Debbie, I hope she is successful. My daughter has MS so this matter is of particular interest to her.

  7. www - Indeed, why not euthanasia centres, except that the same doubts about "forced" euthanasia might arise. But as I said, it's just a question of stringent safeguards against abuse. Sorry, I'd forgotten about your daughter - very much an issue affecting her.

  8. Modern medicine, life styles etc have brought us to this sorry state of affairs. We are not being allowed to die with dignity either!

  9. Ramana - Of course commercial interests like care homes and drug companies have a vested interest in keeping people alive as long as possible, even if they just want to call it a day.

  10. Agreed.

    Bill Hicks also had some tongue in cheek suggestions:

  11. Thrifty - Great video. Two big problems solved at a stroke!