Debbie Purdy: Right-to-die campaigner dies

Debbie Purdy: Right-to-die campaigner dies

Right-to-die advocate Debbie Purdy, who succeeded with  a landmark judgment to clarify the law on assisted suicide, has passed away. The 51-year-old from Bradford had dealt with main progressive numerous sclerosis (MS) for nearly 20 years.

Ms Purdy had spent a year in the city’s Marie Curie Hospice and had  sometimes refused food. She died on 23 December. In 2009, she won a ruling to obtain explanation on whether her spouse Omar Puente would be prosecuted if he assisted her to end her life.


Debbie Purdy – Right to die Campaign

Lord Falconer, the former lord chancellor, said Ms Purdy’s role as a campaigner against the law on assisted suicide was “absolutely key” and she had transformed the dispute.

Mr Puente confirmed the death of his spouse in a statement, paying tribute to “a much enjoyed better half, good friend, aunt and sister”.
Debbie Purdy and spouse Omar Puente in 2010

“We would like to thank the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford for the care the staff provided her, which permitted her in 2013 to be as peaceful and dignified as she wanted,” he added.

David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, where the hospice is situated, said: “Debbie was an amazing human and in spite of her condition she was an ebullient character. “In her own words she said if she was permitted to die it would help her live.”. Mr Ward stated he would remember Ms Purdy for the “great spirit she had and as an incredibly motivating person”.

Lesley Close, a friend of Ms Purdy and customer of the group Dignity in Dying, said: “Debbie was a fantastic person. “Every moment of life was fun when you were with her.”. Lord Pannick, Debbie Purdy’s barrister, who initially satisfied her in 2008 at the start of her legal fight, said: “Her body was already afflicted horribly by this terrible illness, she was in a wheelchair, she was in great pain for much of the time.

“But I do not think I have represented a more energetic customer in my expert career.”. In her final job interview with BBC Look North, Ms Purdy said the unpleasant truths of her condition indicated her life was “inappropriate”. She said: “It’s uncomfortable and it’s uneasy and it’s frightening and it’s not how I wish to live. “If someone could find a treatment for MS I would be the very first individual in line. “It’s not a matter of wanting to end my life, it’s a matter of not wanting my life to be this.”.

Debbie Purdy’s landmark legal success did not lead to a modification in the law but it forced the authorities to clarify exactly what the legislation indicated in practice.

Ms Purdy had looked for guarantee over whether her partner would be prosecuted if he assisted her end her life. Purdy’s priority concern was to learn if any actions her spouse, Omar Puente, took in aiding her suicide would result in his prosecution. The charge for those who “help, abet, counsel or acquire the suicide of another” is a maximum of 14 years. No member of any family of the 92 Britons who have travelled for an assisted suicide has  been prosecuted but some have been charged and have waited for months before hearing the charges have been dropped. Purdy said that if her spouse would be exposed to prosecution for assisting her travel to Switzerland to a Dignitas clinic to pass away, she would make the journey sooner whilst she had the ability to take a trip unassisted to conserve her partner from exposure to the law. This would have forced Purdy to make her decision on dying before she felt it was absolutely necessary.

When this may be the case after ruling the law was uncertain, in 2009 the Law Lords bought the Director of Public Prosecutions to define.

That triggered Keir Starmer – the then director – to publish standards in February 2010 setting out what was considered when weighing up a prosecution.

He stated a variety of aspects need to be considered, consisting of the inspirations of the person aiding and the victim’s capability to reach a informed and clear decision about their suicide.

The right to die is an emotive and highly charged issue. Some religions regard choosing the time to die should be above human intervention. Few of us would allow the life of a beloved pet to continue if this would cause them to suffer.

It still continues to be an offence to help a suicide or encourage or a suicide attempt in England and Wales.

Adapted from an article by the BBC


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