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How Changing the Law can Improve Human Rights at the End of Life
  1. Tamora Langley
  1. VES, 13 Prince of Wales Terrace, London, W8 5PG, UK. Email: tamora{at}


In June 2001 42-year-old Diane Pretty, happily married with two children, made a public appeal for the right to ask a doctor to help her die. Diane had Motor Neuron Disease. In two years the fatal illness had taken away her ability to walk, she was tube-fed and was starting to lose her speech. Her intellect however, was unaffected and she communicated by way of a ‘light writer’. She felt she should legally be allowed to choose how and when she died, rather than have to endure a long drawn-out death. Following the Government’s refusal of her request, Diane turned to the courts. The case was the first of its kind, brought under the Human Rights Act, which came into effect in October 2000.

The case began at the High Court in August 2001, went through the House of Lords, to the final decision in the European Court of Human

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