Woman asks court for 'right to die with dignity'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A terminally ill mother demanding the right to commit suicide with her husband's help, appeared at the High Court on Wednesday despite being in the advanced stages of motor neurone disease.

Diane Pretty was pushed in her wheelchair into the courtroom by her husband, Brian, and listened as her barrister said it was her right to choose how and when she died.

In the first case of its kind, Mrs Pretty is attempting to use the European Convention on Human Rights to give her husband immunity from prosecution if he helps her take her life.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, refused in August to guarantee he would not prosecute under the Suicide Act and Mrs Pretty is seeking to have that overturned .

Mrs Pretty, 42, from Luton, is paralysed from the neck down, has virtually no decipherable speech and faces death by suffocation as her muscles deteriorate. Philip Havers QC outlined her case for about 90 minutes Wednesday before she began to feel unwell and was taken home.

Mr Havers said Mrs Pretty's life expectancy was now "very poor" and she was "frightened and distressed" at the suffering and indignities she faced if the disease was allowed to run its course.

Her intellect and ability to make decisions were unimpaired, he said, and she wanted to control events, but she would need the help of her husband because the disease left her physically incapable of taking her own life.

Mr Havers said the refusal to guarantee her husband would not be prosecuted was a violation of her human rights because the convention allowed people the right to die, as well as the right to life. The DPP and the Home Office's position also meant she would suffer "inhuman and degrading treatment" as a result of the disease.

The hearing was adjourned to today.