On the anniversary of her death, we salute the legacy of the committed assisted dying campaigner Debbie Purdy

Debbie Purdy led an enviable life before multiple sclerosis changed it forever. As a music journalist Debbie not only had access to music gigs for free, but the venues wouldn’t allow her to pay for drinks. It was on one such occasion in Singapore that she met her husband-to-be, the renowned Cuban jazz musician Omar Puente, who went on to support Debbie tirelessly as she faced the challenging symptoms of her illness with considerable grit.

On the anniversary of her death, we remember Debbie’s powerful legacy in forcing the government, through her legal case in 2009, to issue guidance on the prosecution criteria for those who assist someone to die. She wanted to be sure Omar would not be prosecuted if he accompanied her to an assisted death in Switzerland.

The then Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, issued the Crown Prosecution Service guidance to apply in deciding whether a prosecution is in the public interest, even if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute. There are sixteen factors tending in favour of prosecution and six against. You can see the details here:

It is worth remembering the title of Debby’s heart-warming memoir, It’s not because I want to die. In choosing that phrase, she echoed what we know to be true: that those with incurable conditions or who are terminally ill simply want the ability to choose when and where their lives end, if they consider that their suffering has become intolerable. But for their suffering, they would want to live on. Our own late patron Paul Lamb, paralysed in a car accident, expressed a similar view in his campaigning.

Experience since the CPS issued its policy on prosecution, following Debby’s legal case, shows that it is not being applied in a consistent manner. Only this year, My Death, My Decision member Sue Lawford was arrested on her return to the UK, after she accompanied Sharon Johnston, a tetraplegic, to Dignitas.


  1. REPLY
    Dena says

    No one should be prosecuted for helping a loved one to end their lives, it is the greatest gift of love one can give.

    • REPLY
      Bonita Hill says

      So so true, Dena – the greatest gift

  2. REPLY
    irene lawrence says

    Aiding a suicide for someone with no hope of recovery and having to live in unmentionable pain should not be illegal … provided all the necessary steps have been taken with medical approval ….. I would not like to watch anyone going through what my mother-in-law suffered …. begging for relief …

    • REPLY
      Bonita Hill says

      Irene. You would not let an animal suffer so why let a human being.

  3. REPLY
    M. Coombes says

    I broadly agree with the above two comments qualifying the former with ‘subject to strict and reviewed in the light of ongoing research & eligibility criteria.
    The latter comment helps me clarify that the context of care should be one that is fully funded and available excellent NHS care to all of us during our treatment

  4. REPLY
    Arnold Pitcher says

    I agree with Dena and Irene Laurences comments

  5. REPLY
    Arnold Pitcher says

    Siffering should not be prolonged when doctors decide that illness is terminal.

  6. REPLY
    Dan Keohane says

    I agree with the comments of Dena and Irene.

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