U.K. Judge: Husband Can Take Wife to Switzerland for Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

U.K. Judge: Husband Can Take Wife to Switzerland for Assisted Suicide Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 30, 2004

London, England (LifeNews.com) — A British judge ruled that the husband of an ailing woman can take her to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. The ruling overturns a previous injunction preventing the couple from making the trip.

A local authority previously banned a woman, known only as Mrs. Z, from traveling to the western European nation to be killed.

"The court should not frustrate indirectly the rights of Mrs. Z,” Justice Mark Hedley wrote in an order released today at the High Court of London. "The role of Mr. Z is now a matter for the criminal justice agencies."

The woman has been diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, an incurable brain disease. She had presented her request to a psychologist who cleared her saying she was making her own decision to have her life taken and is not being pressured by anyone else.

Normally, aiding a suicide carries a jail sentence of as much as 14 years, which prompted the local authority to issue the original ruling two years ago preventing the husband from taking Mrs. Z to be killed.

After Hedley’s decision, attorney Mark Everall said the husband would "now comply with his wife’s wishes."

Everall also told Bloomberg news that Mrs. Z’s adult children don’t agree with their mother’s decision but support her anyway.

"The adult children of the family are again in a similar position. While clearly not wishing such a thing to happen, they support their mother in the decision she has taken," Everall said.

Pro-life groups oppose Judge Hedley’s ruling and say more should be done to care for disabled and elderly patients.

"This is yet another example of the pro-euthanasia lobby taking advantage of a vulnerable
person’s suffering to advance its cause rather than offering the compassionate help this woman clearly needs," said Paul Tully of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, a group that backs assisted suicide, said Judge Hedley’s ruling means the law preventing the grisly practice "is on its last legs."

The problem of British residents traveling to Switzerland for assisted suicides has come to a critical point recently.

The Swiss pro-euthanasia group known as Dignitas actively encourages British citizens to come to mainland Europe, where euthanasia is tolerated.

The problem has become so great that a public prosecutor in Switzerland has encouraged the nation’s parliament to pass a law prohibiting "suicide tourism."

It is estimated that more than 550 U.K. residents now belong to the Zurich-based Dignitas. Officials with the organization have said that typically 1 in 5 members accepts the offer of assisted suicide, but it is difficult to verify that claim.

Related web sites:
SPUC – https://www.spuc.org.uk