Five years ago - on 11th May 2002 - Diane Pretty died of Motor Neurone Disease in a hospice in Luton, having failed in her High Court and European Court battles to obtain immunity from prosecution for her husband, should he assist her in taking her life.

Five years on, her widower Brian is a patron of Dignity in Dying, The Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) as was, which continues to campaign for the legalisation of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in the UK. And their campaign is highlighted in The Independent with a front page feature, pegged around Diane's story.

Each anniversary of Diane's death seems poignant. Last year, the second reading of Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill was scheduled for 12th May, one day after the fourth anniversary. The Bill was defeated by 148-100 votes. And Dignity in Dying have announced that they are 'working to bring a new Bill to Parliament in the near future'.

Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, has responded to The Independent's article:

Sir: The case of Diane Pretty (8 May), who died naturally after seeking assisted suicide for motor neurone disease five years ago this week, is sad but very unusual. About 1,000 people with this condition die every year in the UK, and the vast majority do not ask to have their lives intentionally ended. In fact requests for assisted suicide are extremely rare when patients' physical, psychological and spiritual needs are properly met. This should prompt us to call for the excellent standard of palliative care available to some in this country to be made more readily accessible to all. To this end Baroness Finlay's Palliative Care Bill, currently before the House of Lords deserves our full support.

Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, which attempted to legalise assisted suicide, suffered a resounding 148-100 defeat in the House of Lords last year because peers realized that a change in the law to allow assisted dying would have placed subtle pressure, whether real or imagined, on vulnerable people - the sick, disabled, elderly or depressed - to request early death. To change the law for a few who persist in their request for euthanasia, despite receiving the best palliative care, would put a much larger number of others at risk.

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