PM Says Not In Favour of Altering Law

LONDON, November 29, 2001 ( – The House of Lords has rejected an appeal by Dianne Pretty, a 47-year-old British woman suffering from motor neurone disease, who asked the courts to allow her husband to assist in her suicide without facing criminal charges. The BBC reports that five law lords unanimously dismissed the appeal, saying that human rights legislation, on which grounds Pretty appealed, was in place to protect life rather than end it.

The Telegraph reports that Lord Bingham, the senior law lord, said it would have been a “gross abuse of his power” if the public prosecutor had promised that a crime yet to be committed would not lead to prosecution. Pretty, who also lost her case in an unanimous ruling at the High Court, said she would appeal the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday that he was not in favour of reforming the Suicide Act to allow ill people to take their own lives. “It is really a matter of conscience for people on both sides of the House, but I’m afraid I’m not in favour of amending that Act,” he said in the House of Commons.

The coalition of three pro-life groups which had intervened in the case (SPUC, the Medical Ethics Alliance and ALERT) welcomed the ruling, which they said safeguarded the right to life of vulnerable sick people. The coalition had been allowed to submit legal argument but had not been allowed by the court to submit medical evidence provided by Dr Nigel Sykes, a leading expert in terminal care for sufferers of motor neurone disease, demonstrating that much could be done to alleviate Mrs Pretty’s suffering.

For the BBC and Telegraph coverage see:   (with files from SPUC)