MS sufferer wins 'right to die'

Last updated at 08:22 25 May 2004

A seriously ill woman from County Durham has won a landmark legal case which could force carers to stand by and watch her choke to death.

Durham County Council has agreed to conditions in the living will of a former schoolteacher in her 50s, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, which prevent carers intervening to save her.

She sees the document, recognised by the courts, as her only legal alternative to euthanasia and wants to "grab the opportunity" to die.

Choking often happens in later stages of MS.

Durham County Council accepted her living will and instructed its carers to allow her to die, even though they may have to watch her choke to death.

Doctors and nurses have previously been told by NHS lawyers to accede to living wills but it is the first known case where those outside the medical profession have had to do so.

The agreement, negotiated after the woman threatened legal action against the council, sets a precedent that could be followed by other authorities.

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