A woman suffering from Multiple Sclerosis who wants her husband to accompany her to Switzerland so she can die in dignity has vowed to continue her fight to clarify the law after two judges yesterday ruled that prosecutors do not have to publish special guidance on assisted suicide cases.
Debbie Purdy (45), who uses a wheelchair, travelled from Bradford to London to hear the outcome of her case.
She claimed that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had a legal duty to say when he was most likely to prosecute an allegation of assisted suicide.
Ms Purdy said that without such clarity her husband, Omar, would be at risk of being imprisoned for up to 14 years if he played any part in her travel arrangements to Dignitas, the Swiss clinic where 100 British citizens have chosen to stay to end their lives.
Her lawyers argued the DPP was in breach of her Article 8 right to respect for her private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights because of his failure to make the law clear.
But Lord Justice Scott Baker and Mr Justice Aikens, sitting at the London's High Court, ruled that Ms Purdy's human rights had not been infringed and that it was up to Parliament to redraw the limits of the law.
Lord Justice Scott Baker added: “We cannot leave this case without expressing great sympathy for Ms Purdy, her husband and others in a similar position who wish to know in advance whether they will face prosecution for doing what many would regard as something that the law should permit, namely to help a loved one go abroad to end their suffering when they are unable to do it on their own.”
He said: “This would involve a change in the law. The offence of assisted suicide is very widely drawn to cover all manner of different circumstances; only Parliament can change it.”
After leaving court, Ms Purdy said she was disappointed by the ruling and promised to take her case to the Court of Appeal.
Speaking outside the High Court she said: “We still don't know how we can make sure that we stay within the law, because I'm certainly not prepared for Omar to break the law — I'm not prepared for him to face jail. How can we make sure that we act within the law if they won't tell us in what circumstances they would prosecute?”
She says she is still considering travelling to Switzerland to take a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by doctors at Dignitas.
Earlier this month a former rugby player travelled to Dignitas to commit suicide. It is understood that parents of Daniel James (23) from Worcester who was paralysed during a training session in 2007, are being investigated by police and a report has been referred to the West Midlands complex casework unit of the Crown Prosecution Service.