The House of Lords will hear the appeal of Debbie Purdy on Tuesday 2 June 2009. In issue is the DPP’s refusal to promulgate of a crime-specific policy relating to assisted suicide, identifying the facts and circumstances that he would take into account when deciding whether to prosecute an individual for assisting another person to commit suicide.

The case has a number of extraordinary features.  It has reached the House with extraordinary speed.  A first instance decision on 29 October 2008 was followed by a Court of Appeal judgment on 19 February 2009  The House of Lords has convened to hear Ms Purdy’s second appeal less than 4 months later.  It is difficult to see where the objective urgency comes from.  There appears to be no suggestion that Ms Purdy’s life is at imminent risk.

The second extraordinary feature is the entirely academic nature of the point as it is clear that the DPP will not prosecute Ms Purdy’s partner – no person assisting another to travel to Switzerland for the purposes of committing suicide has ever been prosecuted.

The case appears to be part of a campaign to change the law by "Dignity in Dying" (aka the Voluntary Euthanasia Society).  The case has generated massive media interest


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