Intended for healthcare professionals


Purdy wins battle for clarity of law for people who accompany relatives abroad for assisted suicide

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 31 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3131
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. 1BMJ

    The director of public prosecutions (DPP) must spell out clearly his policy on prosecuting people in England and Wales who help friends or relatives go abroad for assisted suicide, the UK’s highest court has ruled.

    The unanimous judgment from five law lords is a victory for Debbie Purdy, who has primary progressive multiple sclerosis and wants her husband to help her travel to Switzerland—where assisted suicide is lawful—when she decides to die.

    She feared her husband, Omar Puente, might be prosecuted if he helped her under the Suicide Act 1961, which makes aiding or abetting a suicide a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison. She also argued that the blanket ban on …

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