U.K. High Court Upholds Law Prohibiting Assisted Suicide

Bishop of East Anglia Says Court Has Acted Rightly

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LONDON, OCT. 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The United Kingdom´s High Court upheld the law against euthanasia and assisted suicide, thus prohibiting a husband from assisting his terminally ill wife to end her life.

Diane Pretty, 42, mother of two, who is suffering from motor neuron disease, will now appeal directly to the House of Lords.

In the first case of its kind in the United Kingdom, Mrs. Pretty challenged presiding judge David Calvert Smith to exempt her husband from prosecution, if he helped her to commit suicide.

In a test case that underscores Britain´s long-standing legal ban on euthanasia, three High Court judges dismissed Pretty´s case and denied her permission to appeal their ruling except to the House of Lords.

The Prettys claimed the refusal to allow the assisted suicide infringed their human rights by subjecting the patient to degrading treatment and failing to respect her private life.

However, Lord Justice Simon Tuckey said her human right is «to live with dignity, not die with dignity.»

Bishop Peter Smith of East Anglia, president of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales, supported the court´s decision. «No one can fail to be moved by the suffering of Diane Pretty and her husband,» he said. «Motor neuron disease is a terrible terminal illness.»

However, the court «has rightly upheld the law prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide, which is there not least to protect the weak, and especially vulnerable older people. It is right to alleviate suffering; it is wrong intentionally to kill,» the bishop added.

Diane Pretty is paralyzed from the neck down, and is too disabled to kill herself. Her disease is now at an advanced stage and she has to be fed through a tube.

Assisting a person to commit suicide carries a maximum 14-year prison term.

The patient, who was diagnosed as suffering from motor neuron disease in 1999, lives with her husband, daughter and granddaughter.

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