'Right-to-die' campaigner Debbie Purdy welcomes assisted suicide guidelines

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The Independent Online

"Right-to-die" campaigner and multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy welcomed the new guidelines on assisted suicide today, saying they have "given me my life back".







But she vowed to continue campaigning for a change to the law, to give other people the same clarity she feels she now has herself.



Ms Purdy, from Bradford, has fought long and hard battle to find out whether her husband, Omar Puente, would be prosecuted for helping her to end her life.



She now knows that if the Cuban jazz violinist is judged to have acted with compassion a prosecution will not be pursued.



"The important thing about the guidelines is they've been able to really clarify the difference between malicious encouragement and compassionate support for somebody's decision," she said.



"The current guidelines are enough to give me my life back and to know that I can carry on living and don't have to worry about making a decision now.



"Now it's my turn to make sure I don't say 'OK I'm all right, end of story'.



"Now we need to make sure the protection is not just for those people who are loud and able to put their point of view across but also that there is clarification and protection in place for everybody else in the United Kingdom."



Ms Purdy, who is wheelchair-bound, said she was not satisfied yet because the guidelines only apply after somebody has already died.



She backed author Sir Terry Pratchett's idea for "tribunals" to look into cases where seriously ill people want to end their lives.



And she criticised Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has warned against legalising assisted suicide.



Mr Brown said changing the law would run the risk of putting vulnerable people under pressure to end their lives and result in an erosion of trust in the caring professions.



But Ms Purdy said she believes changing the law will in fact allow more open discussion, meaning patients will not feel abandoned, and lives will be saved.



"I'm so disappointed that Gordon Brown, our Prime Minister, says he doesn't even want to talk about it because he doesn't see how it can be sorted," she said.



"We need to make sure whatever law we have in this country is appropriate to protect the citizenship of this country in the 21st century."



Ms Purdy took her case to the High Court in October 2008 but her application for judicial review was rejected.



In February last year she suffered another setback when the Court of Appeal ruled she was not legally entitled to the kind of specific guidance she was seeking.



But last July, five Law Lords backed her call for a policy statement on the circumstances in which a person such as her husband might face prosecution for helping a loved one end their life abroad.



Today's guidance from Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer marks the end of Ms Purdy's personal search for answers.



But the energetic campaigner will continue to fight on other people's behalf.

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