Published On: Tue, Dec 30th, 2014 on 6:23 pm

Assisted dying campaigner Debbie Purdy dies aged 51

Debbie Purdy

Debbie Purdy. Image courtesy: Dignity In Dying.

Debbie Purdy, a campaigner who won greater clarity on how the law is applied to those who assist a loved one to die, has passed away.

The 51-year-old had lived with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) for almost 20 years and had spent a year in Bradford’s Marie Curie Hospice, at times refusing food.

She died on the 23 December last week.

Omar Puente confirmed the death of his wife in a statement, describing her as “a much loved wife, sister, aunt and friend.”

He added: “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 was she wished.”

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of right-to-die campaign group Dignity in Dying, said: “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.”

In 2009, Debbie won a ruling to get clarification on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her to end her life.

This resulted in Kier Starmer, then the Director of Public Prosecutions, to publish guidelines when considering a prosecution.

The guidelines include taking into account the motivations of the person assisting and the victim’s ability to reach a clear and informed decision about their suicide.

In her final interview with BBC Look North, Debbie said her life was “not how I want to live”.

She said: “The choice that I make is to die, maybe it’s not the choice other people would make, but it’s my choice.”

It still remains an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England and Wales.

About the Author

Hamad Faridi

- Editor at the Yorkshire Standard. BA Hons graduate from the University of Huddersfield.

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