Diane Pretty

Diane Pretty ( Luton , 15 of November of 1958 – November of maypole of 2002 ) was a female British Luton who became notable for having been the subject of a debate about the laws of euthanasia in the UK during the first part of XXI century. She tried to change British law to end her own life because of the pain and problems she had to endure because of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a terminal disease of motor neurons.

I want to have a quick and painless death, in my house and surrounded by my family.

Diane Pretty 1

Pretty had been diagnosed with motor neuron disease several years earlier. Over time, the disease predictably worsened and made it impossible for him to move or communicate easily, even though his mental faculties remained normal. The illness caused her to be cared for all day by her husband and by nurses hired. This meant that she could not commit suicide, which she had said she would have done if she had been able to do so. 2 She stated her wish that her husband be allowed to help her end her life, but this is classified as ” assisted suicide “, which in the United Kingdom is a crime under the Suicide Act of 1961 . As suicide is a legitimate option for those who can carry it out, it could be argued that preventing such an option for the disabled would be discrimination; And this is illegal both in the United Kingdom and in European legislation. 3 Helping to commit suicide to someone who can not commit suicide is therefore not considered a “service” for which the disabled can be deprived. 3 However, none of these arguments were upheld in court. 4

Pretty filed her case before the court making use of the Human Rights Act, and argued that the Director of Public Prosecutions should commit not to prosecute anyone involved in helping her to die. 3 British courts did not accept Pritty’s arguments. Finally the House of Lords , the highest British court at that time, dismissed his case. 5 The European Court of Human Rights refused to recognize that the European Convention on Human Rights provides for the right to die, so that Pretty’s appeal to this court also failed. 6

Diane Pretty died on May 11, 2002, at age 43, when her health had deteriorated gradually and inexorably due to the course of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in recent months, which generated a number of problems in the Lungs and thorax. 7 8


  1. Back to top↑ “Husband pays tribute to Diane Pretty” , BBC .
  2. Back to top↑ «Diane Pretty makes final” death with dignity “plea” (‘Diane Pretty makes her final claim to die with dignity’) The Guardian , March 20, 2002.
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b c Essay that examines the legal and ethical considerations of the Pretty case.
  4. Back to top↑ Warnock, Mary; And Macdonald, Elisabeth (2008). Easeful death . New York: Oxford University Press, p. 6. ISBN 978-0-19-953990-1 .
  5. Back to top↑ The Queen on the Application of Mrs Diane Pretty (Appellant) v Director of Public Prosecutions (Respondent) and Secretary of State for the Home Department (Interested Party).
  6. Back to top↑ «Pretty v. The United Kingdom », application no. 2346/02 , on the ECHR website.
  7. Back to top↑ «Diane Pretty dies», BBC .
  8. Back to top↑ BBC News coverage about the death of Diane Pretty.