Support for euthanasia is growing, but what of palliative care?
- By: Aditi Das
Debby Purdy, the UK patient with multiple sclerosis, won a landmark legal battle in July (BMJ 2009;339:b3131, doi:10.1136/bmj.b3131). The ruling requires the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, to revise and clarify the policy on prosecution of people who travel abroad to assisted suicide clinics with incurably ill friends or relatives. Ms Purdy’s husband, Omar Puente, could have faced as long as 14 years in prison under the Suicide Act 1961, which states that aiding or abetting a suicide is a crime.
By September, an interim policy will be published, with a final draft being produced next spring. This policy will state the actions to be taken by prosecutors against friends and relatives in this situation and will define whether not Ms Purdy is allowed to travel with her husband to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Several health professionals supported Ms Purdy’s case, asserting that as sentient and autonomous human