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MS sufferer seeks legal clarity on aided suicide

A 45-year-old woman with a progressively debilitating disease appealed to the High Court yesterday to clarify the law on assisted suicide to enable her to plan her own death.

Debbie Purdy, from Bradford, has multiple sclerosis, cannot walk and is losing strength in her upper body. She is seeking a landmark ruling on whether she can be helped to attend a clinic in Switzerland or Belgium, where assisted suicide is legal, if her illness becomes too much to bear. She is worried that her husband could be prosecuted by the British authorities if he accompanies her. That would leave her with no option but to go earlier, before she was ready, but while she could still make the journey alone.

Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK and carries a maximum 14-year prison sentence. But the details of what constitutes "assisting a suicide" have not been made clear. The Crown Prosecution Service has argued that each case must be considered on it merits and that existing guidance governing prosecutions is sufficient.

Ms Purdy was granted a judicial review of the law in June.

The hearing continues.