British Euthanasia Advocates Want Assisted Suicide Law After Woman Dies

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 24, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Euthanasia Advocates Want Assisted Suicide Law After Woman Dies Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 24, 2006

London, England ( — British euthanasia advocates are renewing their calls for legalizing assisted suicide after a British woman suffering from a rare brain disease traveled to Switzerland to die with the help of a controversial organization.

Anne Turner, a retired doctor, was afflicted with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, or PSP, an incurable disease that took the life of actor Dudley Moore in 2002.

She went to Switzerland and died in a Zurich apartment Tuesday after officials from the euthanasia group Dignitas gave her a lethal dose of drugs.

Turner was in the early stages of the disease according to reports in the British media and was able to walk, eat and speak on her own. The PSP Association told the Times Mirror newspaper that patients like her can live on average for seven years with the disease and sometimes even longer.

Turner was the 42nd British resident to die in Europe with assistance from Dignitas. The group now has 673 British members, up from just 100 three years ago.

Pro-life groups say assisted suicide and euthanasia are not preferable alternatives to good palliative care.

Assisted suicide is a crime in England, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Legislation proposed to legalize the practice did not have support from Tony Blair’s government and never received a vote.

Deborah Annetts, director of Dignity in Dying, which is calling for the law ot be approved, said the measure should be brought back up in the House of Lords.

But Christian Medical Fellowship director Peter Saunders said Turner’s case was far different from the bill in question, which allows assisted suicide for those who have less than six months to live.

"Lord Joffe’s assisted dying bill only applies to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live — but this tragic case involves a lady in the early stages of an illness," he said.

Dr. Nigel Sykes, an expert in palliative care at St Christopher’s Hospice, agreed and told the BBC: "Many people who, from the outset, want euthanasia change their minds once they discover what can be made available to them."