Thursday, June 12, 2008

Victims of the Suicide Prohibition: Debbie Purdy

There are certain situations where a right to effective, comfortable assisted suicide might actually be pro-life. Such is the case of Debbie Purdy, the British woman with multiple sclerosis who recently won the right to a hearing to clarify the law on whether her husband would be prosecuted for assisting her suicide should she need his help.

Stories on Debbie Purdy's struggle over the years reveal that her reason for wanting a guarantee of assisted suicide is that, while she loves life and wishes to continue living until her pain becomes unbearable, by then she will no longer be capable of ending her life without assistance. She is concerned that, if she waits and requires assistance to die, her husband will be prosecuted for attempted suicide. From The Guardian in 2004:
Assisting suicides carries a maximum 14-year sentence in Britain, one of the few European countries where it is still a crime. Purdy, like her 55,000 fellow members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, believes this is wrong. 'The only thing that will improve the quality of my life now is a change in the law, so I don't have to be thinking about what I'm going to have to do by myself. If that no longer becomes the biggest question in my life, then I can start thinking about overcoming the symptoms I cope with.'

[Purdy] considered going to Holland, where euthanasia for the terminally ill has been legalised. But patients need to have been registered with a Dutch doctor for two years before they qualify for medical assistance that would bring their lives to an end.

Purdy's hopes for a law change look slim, at least for now. 'People want to bury their heads in the sand on this issue. The other day I heard Linford Christie say "oh they could find a cure". That's just grabbing at straws. That's denial.'

The prosecutor characterized Purdy's case as "unarguable" because Britain lacks a specific policy on assisted suicide and has no obligation to produce one. Purdy has said that she is pleased to get a hearing, and is hopeful that assisted suicide will one day be legal in the UK.

A British forced life group, Care Not Killing, responds that assisted suicide should remain a criminal act:

The key issue here remains whether the law should be changed for the very small number of people who press for assisted suicide. Our view is that in order to protect others from exploitation it should not be.

In other words, sorry Debbie Purdy, but you must suffer for our values that you do not share.

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