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Right-to-die campaigner Purdy dies

Tributes have been paid to right-to-die campaigner Debbie Purdy, who has died after suffering from primary progressive multiple sclerosis for almost 20 years.

The 51-year-old, from Bradford, who has been described as a "much loved wife, sister, aunt and friend", campaigned for a change in the law regarding assisted suicide.

In 2009 she won a landmark ruling in the House of Lords resulting in new guidelines being published by the Government.

Keir Starmer QC, the then director of public prosecutions, said the change meant the motives of those assisting suicide would be at the centre of the decision over whether they should be prosecuted.

She died in the Marie Curie Hospice in her home city, where she had been staying for a year, on December 23.

Her husband, Omar Puente, told the BBC: "We would like to thank the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford for the care the staff gave her, which allowed her last year to be as peaceful and dignified as she wished."

Campaign group Dignity in Dying expressed sadness over her death, describing her as a "valued campaigner and friend".

Chief executive Sarah Wootton said: "Debbie wanted choice and control over her death should she consider her suffering unbearable.

"Ultimately she was seeking peace of mind that her wishes would be respected, but also crucially that her decisions would not result in the potential imprisonment of her husband.

"She rejected the option of travelling abroad to die, and instead, wanting to die in this country, chose to hasten her death by stopping eating.

"Debbie rallied against the hypocrisy of the current law, which turns a blind eye to people travelling abroad to die, whilst seeking to protect them by threatening the imprisonment of their loved ones after their death.

"For over a decade Debbie was a huge presence at Dignity in Dying; from stuffing envelopes to leading her legal challenge, she was an integral part of the campaign and a friend. We will miss her greatly."

The group said her victory meant the law was changed so a loved one acting wholly on compassionate grounds and in an amateur capacity is unlikely to be prosecuted for helping a person with a clear and settled intention to die.

They said her legacy was one of "greater clarity in the law and an increased awareness of the need for greater choice at the end of life".

In 2010 she told an inquiry on assisted dying that if she had not won the backing of the Law Lords she would have gone to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end her own life as her condition was deteriorating.

She had argued that it would be a breach of her human rights if she did not know whether her husband would be prosecuted if he travelled with her to the Swiss clinic.


From Belfast Telegraph