HomeWorldPhysically healthy 28-year-old woman will be euthanised next month

Physically healthy 28-year-old woman will be euthanised next month

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In the UK, voluntary euthanasia – where a patient asks a doctor to end their life – is illegal, falling under manslaughter or murder.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are also specific laws against helping someone to commit suicide, known as ‘assisted dying’, or encouraging them.

The Scottish system states it is ‘not a crime to assist in a suicide’ but this has not been tested and legal experts warn such acts could be prosecuted for culpable homicide (roughly equivalent to manslaughter).

But changes to the law are being debated across Britain to allow assisted dying, in which people would be provided life-ending drugs by clinicians after careful screening.

It’s not clear whether voluntary euthanasia would be included, although the difference would generally be a technical matter of whether the patient ingests the drugs themselves or has a clinician administer them.

More than 500 Britons with conditions such as terminal cancer, severe paralysis and motor neurone disease have got around the current law by travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland for an assisted death.

But the process costs around £10,000, and campaigners say that even those who can put together the cash can’t go because they’re too unwell to travel alone – while helping someone get there could count as manslaughter.

For example, MS patient Anne Jappie, 63, from Cheltenham, says her mobility issues make it ‘impossible’ to travel to Dignitas.

She recently told ITV News: ‘If my friends were to help me, then they would face the possibility of prosecution on return to the UK.

‘It is barbaric that people are suffering. Your pet hamster has a better chance of not being in pain than sentient, thoughtful, sane, people who are suffering beyond endurance.’

Opponents fear legalisation could lead to a ‘slippery slope’ where older or disabled people could feel pressured into assisted dying, though advocates insist this can be safeguarded against.

Surveys indicate between 73% and 84% of the British public support some form of legal assisted dying, so long as strict guidelines are enforced.

Zoraya’s case is unusual as she is able-bodied and is seeking to end mental, rather than physical, suffering.

Dignitas has been criticised in the past for admitting patients who were not severely physically unwell.

For example, the families of Robert and Jennifer Stokes – who ended their lives at Dignitas in 2003 – said the clinic should be closed down.

Robert had epilepsy, while Jennifer had diabetes and back problems, and both suffered from depression.

The changes currently being considered in the UK focus on people with well-understood physical conditions such as MS and incurable forms of cancer.

It’s highly unlikely that psychological conditions would qualify under any new laws, although the debate could shift focus toward mental health issues in the future.

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