Debbie Purdy Dignity in Dying
Assisted Suicide Should be Legalised
“My name is Debbie Purdy and I live in Bradford with my husband Omar. I was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 1995 at the age of 31.
I love my life, but I have always been a fiercely independent woman, and I want to have choice about how and when I die. Should living become unbearable to me, I want to be able to ask for, and receive help to die with dignity.
British law does not allow this, and makes assisting someone to die a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison, so my options are to attempt suicide myself, and risk making matters worse, or to travel to Switzerland to have an assisted death.
My husband knows that if he was able to help me collect the necessary paperwork and make travel arrangements, I could delay making this decision, maybe forever, and for this reason he is prepared to risk a prison sentence. But I do not want Omar or any other person dear to me to be made a criminal for what I see as an act of love and humanity.
I will go overseas to die, alone and unaided, while I still can, if that is the only way I can be in control of my death and protect my husband. But it should not have to be this way. The law in the UK is forcing me to consider dying before I am ready. It should be changed so that me, and others like me, can know that if our suffering does become unbearable we can choose an assisted death.Debbie Purdy was a British music journalist and political activist from Bradford, West Yorkshire, with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, notable for her challenge to the law in England and Wales as relates to assisted suicide.”
Debbie Purdy was a British music journalist and political activist from Bradford, West Yorkshire,with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, notable for her challenge to the law in England and Walesas relates to assisted suicide
Ms Purdy, who died in the Marie Curie Hospice in her home city of Bradford on December 23, told BBC Yorkshire she had started refusing food a year ago because she did not want her life “to be like this”
The 51-year-old had lived with primary progressive multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years.
During a soon-to-be-aired documentary, the prominent campaigner said winning a House of Lords ruling in 2009 – that resulted in new government guidelines on assisted suicide – had given her “years of time”.
Her family have described her as a “much loved wife, sister, aunt and friend” following her death at the hospice in her home city, where she had been staying for a year.
During the 30-minute documentary, filmed at her home and the hospice, she said: “It’s not a matter of wanting to end my life, it’s a matter of not wanting my life to be this.
“I have lived with MS for nearly 20 years gratefully, and winning that court case in 2009 has given me years of time that I’m grateful for but I can’t cope with any more.
“It’s painful and it’s uncomfortable and it’s frightening and it’s not how I want to live. If somebody could find a cure for MS I would be the first person in line.”
Following the landmark ruling, Keir Starmer QC, the then director of public prosecutions, said the change meant the motives of those assisting suicide would be at the centre of the decision over whether they should be prosecuted.
As her condition deteriorated Ms Purdy invited BBC Yorkshire journalist Emma Glasbey into her home as she prepared to make the decision to begin refusing food and end her life.
The journalist, who had followed Ms Purdy’s story since 2008, filmed with her in June 2013 as well as in December last year on her last day at home before entering the Bradford hospice, and again in the hospice in July 2014.
The documentary will be shown on BBC One (Yorkshire) at 10.25pm tonight and will also be available on BBC iPlayer shortly afterwards.
Yesterday, her husband Omar Puente paid tribute to her, along with campaign group Dignity in Dying, who described her as a “valued campaigner and friend”.
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.”
Dignity in Dying chief executive Sarah Wootton added: “Debbie wanted choice and control over her death should she consider her suffering unbearable.
“Ultimately she was seeking peace of mind that her wishes would be respected, but also crucially that her decisions would not result in the potential imprisonment of her husband.
“She rejected the option of travelling abroad to die, and instead, wanting to die in this country, chose to hasten her death by stopping eating.
“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.”
Mr Puente thanked on Monday thanked hospice staff, saying their care “allowed her last year to be as peaceful and dignified as she wished”.
Listen to Debbie on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
Debbie’s story in The Daily Telegraph
Debbie’s story in The Guardian
Another piece in The Guardian
Should you want to contact any of the people featured in these pages, or wish to share your own story with us, please contact Jo Cartwright:
020 7479 7737 or 07725 433 025