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Diane Pretty

Written by Brian Pretty, Diane's husband

Diane had motor neurone disease and desperately wanted a doctor to help her to die.

Motor neurone disease left her mind as sharp as ever, but it gradually destroyed her muscles, making it hard for her to communicate with her family. It left her in a wheelchair, catheterised and fed through a tube. Diane fought against the disease for the last 2 years of her life and had every possible medical treatment.

She was fully aware of what the future held and decided to refuse artificial ventilation. Rather than the fear of dying by choking or suffocation, she wanted a doctor to help her die when she was no longer able to communicate with her family and friends. She discussed this with her husband of 25 years, Brian, who had to come to terms with what she wanted and to respect her decision.

Brian says that losing her was devastating for him and their two children but he would have been pleased if Diane could have had the good death she so desperately wanted, a quick death without suffering, at home surrounded by her family so that she could say good-bye to them.

Diane had to go through the one thing she had foreseen and was afraid of – and there was nothing I could do to help.

Brian Pretty, Diane’s husband

If she had been physically able Diane said she would have taken her own life. That’s not illegal. But because of the terrible nature of her illness she could not do this – to carry out her wishes she would have needed assistance. Diane died in a hospice in May 2002, having fought in the High Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Her widower, Brian, has never stopped campaigning for justice for Diane. Nobody has done more to promote the need for reform of our law.

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