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Two more terminally ill UK citizens forced to travel abroad to die –

Media statement

5th March 2009

Two more terminally ill UK citizens forced to travel abroad to die

Dignity in Dying has recently learned that Bath couple, Peter and Penelope Duff, both suffering from terminal cancer, were assisted to die at Dignitas last Friday.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“This is an extremely sad case of two more terminally ill UK citizens being forced to travel to an unfamiliar country to die. It demonstrates, yet again, that we are currently on a slippery slope which forces people to make difficult and often desperate decisions so that they can take control of the time and manner of their deaths.

“Dignity in Dying campaigns for terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have the choice of an assisted death, subject to strict legal safeguards. Mr and Mrs Duff were both terminally ill and therefore may have been eligible for an assisted death under this sort of legislation. Had they had the option of an assisted death in this country they may still be alive, as their physical ability to travel would not have been a factor.

“It is time for Parliament to fully debate this issue, and there is that opportunity now. The Coroners and Justice Bill is being debated in Parliament at the moment, and within this Bill is the opportunity to modernise the 1961 Suicide Act. Parliament currently has no plans to change the scope of the Suicide Act to allow assisted dying, but surely this case highlights the importance of addressing this issue with urgency to prevent any more people from having to take the decision to travel abroad to die.”

– Ends –

End notes:

For more information please contact Jo Cartwright, Campaigns and Press Officer on 020 7479 7737,


The current law

· Assisting a suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment in England and Wales

· Section 2 (1) of the 1961 Suicide Act states: A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years

· Section 2 (4) of the 1961 Suicide Act states: No proceedings shall be instituted for an offence under this section except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions

· To date no one who has accompanied a loved one to Dignitas has been prosecuted. However, people have been questioned by the Police and threatened with prosecution.

About Dignity in Dying

· Dignity in Dying is the leading organisation in the UK that advocates assisted dying for terminally ill patients.

· Dignity in Dying has over 100,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.

· Opinion polls consistently show that at least 80% of the UK population support a change in the law on assisted dying.


· There is no connection between Dignitas and Dignity and Dying

· Dignitas opened in 1998 and the clinic has so far helped at least 868 people to end their lives – over 102 of these were from the UK

· Dignitas has upward of 725 members in the UK