Euthanasia campaigner ends her own life at 51

British euthanasia campaigner and MS sufferer, Debbie Purdy, has died aged 51.

Debbie Purdy, the right-to-die campaigner who won a landmark court ruling to clarify the law on assisted suicide, has died aged 51.

Mrs Purdy, from Bradford, passed away at the city’s Marie Curie Hospice on December 23, having lived with MS for 20 years.

She had been staying at the hospice for a year, and had reportledly been refusing food since entering the hospice in December 2013.

Mrs Purdy’s legal victory, at the House of Lords in 2009, led to new guidelines on assisted suicide being issued by Keir Starmer QC, the then director of public prosecutions. Mr Starmer said the year after the ruling that the motives of those assisting suicide would be at the centre of the decision over whether they should be prosecuted.

Campaigners said that Mrs Purdy’s legacy made it unlikely that relatives, acting wholly on compassionate grounds and in an amateur capacity would be prosecuted if they helped a sick family member take their own life, if that relative clearly wanted to die.

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

Mr 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.”

Mrs Purdy decided to end her life in a British hospice, by depriving herself of food, because she could not afford to travel to an assisted suicide clinic, such as Dignitas in Switzerland, the BBC reported.

In her final interview, Mrs Purdy told the BBC shortly before she died: “If somebody could find a cure for MS, I would be the first person in line. It’s not a matter of wanting to end my life, it’s a matter of not wanting my life to be this. And I have lived with MS for nearly 20 years.”

it is terrible that she had to end her life by starving herself to death.

The law is an ass. Where is the dignity in dying like that…just to meet stupid legal requirements.


– The Telegraph


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  • Isherman

    So to meet legal requirements, it was her dignity that was ended by the law before her life. Yep, the laws’ an ass.

    • Nirvana10

      Not at all sure what point you are making here Isherman. Sadly, there is little ‘dignity’ involved with many deaths. The poor folk who lost their lives in the Air Asia crash didn’t experience ‘dignity’. Many people who die of heart attacks or suchlike don’t have much ‘dignity’ either in the way they come to the end of their lives. We all hope that we will die peacefully perhaps in our sleep. Fortunately for us we have no idea at all what form our death will take but for many of us it is unlikely to be a ‘dignified’ death. The slogan ‘death with dignity’ is an attempt to use language to manipulate people’s emotions. The ‘death with dignity’ movement is really about allowing others to kill us. It’s a slippery slope in my view.

      • Isherman

        Well in her case, she has made a conscious decision to end her own suffering, as opposed to dying tragically or in the other manners you describe, and yet instead of being able to do it ‘comfortably’ at a precise time of her choosing, she has had to do it in such a way that is more prolonged and less ‘humane’,all to stay above board legally in her circumstances, as I’m sure starving to death would be far less than comfortable. I don’t advocate for willy nilly right to die types, but she had her own principles and to some degree those were denied her. As she said, it wasn’t a wish to die as such, just not to live with the slow tortuous death that MS ultimately produces. Hope that helps somewhat.

        • Robin

          Control over the precise moment of death is an illusion. How many people actually die “comfortably at a precise time of their choosing”? Heart attacks, strokes, car accidents and plane crashes certainly wouldn’t qualify. Neither suicide nor assisted suicide can guarantee such control. Studies show that in up to 30% of assisted deaths there are complications such as uncontrollable vomiting, fits and delayed death.

      • Steve

        It is indeed a slippery slope but not an impossible one. Other societies, more sophisticated and mature than ours here have figured out a way…

        • Robin

          Which societies are your referring to, Steve?

          • Steve

            The Netherlands immediately springs to mind

          • Robin

            So you reckon the Netherlands has developed a model that NZ should follow? There children as young as 12 can legally receive assisted suicide if they feel their suffering is hopeless and unbearable. There parents can request euthanasia for disabled children. Is this what you want for New Zealand?

          • Steve

            The legal framework in The Netherlands is codified as follows:

            The law allows medical review board to suspend prosecution of doctors who performed euthanasia when each of the following conditions is fulfilled:

            1) the patient’s suffering is unbearable with no prospect of improvement

            2) the patient’s request for euthanasia must be voluntary and persist over time (the request cannot be granted when under the influence of others, psychological illness or drugs)

            3) he patient must be fully aware of his/her condition, prospects and options

            4) there must be consultation with at least one other independent doctor who needs to confirm the conditions mentioned above

            5) the death must be carried out in a medically appropriate fashion by the doctor or patient, and the doctor must be present

            6) the patient is at least 12 years old (patients between 12 and 16 years of age require the consent of their parents)

            You can frame it however you wish, but the protocols observed in The Netherlands are fine with me and I would be comfortable in assuming that many New Zealanders would feel the same.
            The last Bill before the house was only defeated by one vote so I imagine it will come around again one day soon.


          • Robin

            Prof Theo Boer was a member of a Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review Committee for nine years. He was a supporter of the legislation, but now admits that the Netherlands was “terribly wrong”. In July 2014 he warned the UK against following the Dutch example.

    • Robin

      Where do you get the idea that she died without dignity? Her husband said her last year was “as peaceful and dignified as she wished.”

  • 1951

    It was her choice but sad she wasn’t able to see other options. For anyone who may have someone close them with MS , this video maybe very enlightening.

  • Dave_1924

    Having watched both my parents go with cancer its not pleasant, and I support a DEBATE happening on this topic, though I know it will not be a pleasant one.

    For those interested there is a Facebook group that is End of Life choice… Some interesting postings and if your inclined to the EOLC viewpoint a like minded community

    • Robin

      In the interest of a balanced debate, there’s also a Facebook group that is opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide in NZ for social reasons: