LONDON, May 2, 2012 ( – Euthanasia campaigners are jubilant today as a landmark high court ruling will allow a man with motor neuron disease to commit suicide. The 67-year-old, who is not being named in the press, cannot write or speak because of the effects of motor neuron disease. Justice Theis of the Court of Protection, ruled that his indication that he wanted to die, made by blinking a message to his wife, was legally acceptable.

The decision was praised by ‘right-to-die’ campaigner Debbie Purdy, who told the Daily Mail that it is “a victory for humanity because it recognises that irrespective of our disabilities we should still have our rights”.

The man, identified in court documents only as “XB,” has suffered from motor neuron disease for ten years. In 2010, the court was told, in discussions over what life-sustaining treatment he wanted after becoming incapacitated, XB said he would want treatment to be withdrawn.

In November last year, he indicated before witnesses, including a social worker and a physician, that he consented to the removal of a respirator.

The 2005 Mental Capacity Act, which has been denounced repeatedly as a license for euthanising helpless and depressed patients, allows doctors to remove life-sustaining medical treatment, including food and hydration, at a patient’s request. Guidelines issued in 2006 under the Blair Labour government, said that doctors may face prison sentences for assault if they refuse to starve and dehydrate patients to death.

Despite assisted suicide remaining in the criminal code, with a possible penalty of 14 years in prison, pro-life advocates have long maintained that Britain has effectively decriminalised both assisted suicide and euthanasia by omission.

Anthony Ozimic, communications director for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented to, “It is not unethical for a non-dying patient to refuse futile or disproportionately burdensome medical treatment, as long as their intention is not suicidal.

“In this case, however, what is being withdrawn is standard care appropriate for the condition, with the intention of ending life based on the person’s quality of life. We warned for years that the Mental Capacity Act is based on the inhuman notion that disabled people’s lives may not be worth living. It is sanitised barbarism.”


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