British court rejects plea for ‘death with dignity’

Associated Press

LONDON — A terminally ill woman paralyzed by a degenerative disease lost her case Thursday before Britain’s highest appeals court, where she was fighting for the right to die with her husband’s help.

Diane Pretty then said she would challenge the decision in the European Court of Human Rights.

Five judges at the House of Lords ruled that Pretty’s human rights were not violated by an earlier ruling against her bid to "die with dignity."

Pretty, 43, is paralyzed from the neck down by motor neuron disease and confined to a wheelchair. She challenged the director of public prosecutions’ refusal to grant her husband, Brian, immunity if he helped her die.

In October, a lower court agreed that Brian Pretty could not be guaranteed immunity from prosecution. Suicide is legal in Britain, but helping someone else commit suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The five judges in the House of Lords said they were moved by Diane Pretty’s plight, but ruled that Britain’s Human Rights Act did not protect Brian Pretty from being charged.

Diane Pretty said she was "angry and disappointed" by the ruling and would appeal to the European Court in Strasbourg, France.

"I feel I have no rights," said Pretty, who communicates through a typing machine. "The (judges) don’t want to admit that the law is wrong."

Pretty’s lawyer, Philip Havers, noted that his client would legally be allowed to end her life, but could not because she is incapable. The right to life enshrined in human rights law includes the right to self-determination over life and death, he said.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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