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Debbie Purdy comments on her forthcoming House of Lords appeal hearing

Debbie Purdy’s House of Lords Appeal to begin tomorrow

Debbie Purdy’s House of Lords appeal will be heard in the House of Lords tomorrow and Wednesday (2nd and 3rd June).

Debbie Purdy, who suffers from Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, would like the option of an assisted death should her suffering become unbearable. She wants to clarify the current law, which could leave her husband open to imprisonment if he helps her travel to a foreign country for assistance to die where it is lawful.

The previous Court of Appeal judgment said that although a prosecution is unlikely, they would not rule for a prosecuting policy to fully clarify the law. Debbie is challenging this judgment in the House of Lords appeal. Debbie says:

“This is an opportunity for the highest court in the land to listen to what the public want and clarify a law that has existed, without being updated, for far too long. I am optimistic that the House of Lords is listening and will give me the clarity I need”.


Note to Editors:

Debbie will be available for interview on Tuesday 2 June between 9.15 and 9.45 on College Green, Westminster (opposite Sovereign’s Entrance, House of Lords).

For more information, interviews with Debbie Purdy or Dignity in Dying Chief Executive Sarah Wootton, please contact Jo Cartwright, Campaigns and Press Officer on 020 7479 7739/07725433025.

Further information:

The Appeal against the decision of the Appeal Court will take place on Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd June 2009 at the House of Lords, London.

The current law:

  • Assisting a suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment in England and Wales
  • Section 2 (1) of the 1961 Suicide Act states: A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years
  • Section 2 (4) of the 1961 Suicide Act states: No proceedings shall be instituted for an offence under this section except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions
  • To date no one who has accompanied a loved one to Dignitas has been prosecuted. However, people have been questioned by the Police and threatened with prosecution.

Debbie Purdy:

  • Debbie Purdy is 46 years of age
  • She lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire, with her husband Omar Puente
  • Debbie was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) on 21 March 1995, aged 31

Dignity in Dying:

  • Dignity in Dying is the leading organisation in the UK that advocates assisted dying for terminally ill patients.
  • Dignity in Dying has over 100,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
  • Opinion polls consistently show that at least 80% of the UK population support a change in the law on assisted dying.
  • Dignity in Dying supports Debbie Purdy’s case for the DPP to clarify his prosecuting policy around relatives who accompany loved ones overseas to have an assisted death in countries where it is a legal practice, or help them in any way. The least Debbie and others like her deserve is to know where they and their families stand within the law.
  • Dignity in Dying believes that denying Debbie adequate choice over the end of her life is also denying her dignity.
  • Dignity in Dying strongly believes that we need an assisted dying law in the UK, so that people like Debbie would not have to contemplate having to travel overseas to have an assisted death. Dignity in Dying campaigns within the current law to introduce medically assisted dying for terminally ill adults.
  • A UK law would mean that Debbie, and others like her, would not be forced to contemplate dying before they are ready. An assisted dying law in the UK would lengthen people’s lives, as they would not have to contemplate committing violent suicides, mercy killings or traveling abroad to die


  • There is no connection between Dignitas and Dignity and Dying
  • Dignitas opened in 1998 and the clinic has so far helped at least 883 people to end their lives & over 115 of these were from the UK
  • Dignitas has upward of 786 members in the UK