Radio: Test Case on Debbie Purdy and assisted suicide

27 February 2019

Two related programmes on BBC Radio 4, available now on BBC Sounds until 28 March 2019

Test Case: Debbie Purdy

Debbie Purdy was a journalist who fell in love with a Cuban jazz musician, just as she discovered that she had primary progressive MS. Years later, their love led to a legal challenge in the House of Lords. Debbie was asking for the law to be clarified. If her condition meant she needed an assisted death, would her husband be likely to be prosecuted? Debbie’s book “It’s Not Because I Want To Die”, a gutsy account of love, life and facing death, is dramatised by Joy Wilkinson, and features the music of Debbie’s husband, Omar Puente.

Test Case: The Legacy of Debbie Purdy

So what became of Debbie Purdy and her husband Omar, who inspired her case? Why did Debbie’s legal battle, which happened 10 years ago, have such an impact? Deborah Bowman discusses these questions with the people who were there: her husband, Omar Puente, her solicitor, Saimo Chahal, and Lord Falconer, the barrister and Labour peer who campaigned on the issue in Parliament.

Play: Bodies by Vivienne Franzmann

20 February 2017


“We should have brought a gift.”

“We’ve brought a gift. It’s called 22 thousand pounds.”

Purchased from Russia. Developed in India. Delivered to the UK.

A global transaction over nine months that offers ‘a lifetime of happiness’ to all involved.

“What do you think will happen to a baby girl in India that nobody wants?”

Vivienne Franzmann’s previous work at the Royal Court includes Pests and The Witness. Her new play Bodies will be directed by Jude Christian (Lela & Co.).

Wed 5 Jul – Sat 12 Aug

Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre

Tickets from £12. General booking opens on Wed 22 Feb at 10am.

News: assisted suicide in Switzerland on the KCLMEL blog

12 June 2011

The law and practice of assisted suicide in Switzerland will be much discussed this week following the broadcast of Terry Pratchett’s documentary. Earlier posts have discussed the Swiss government’s plans for reform of the law, and a recent court decision allowing the defence of necessity in a case of euthanasia (termination of life on request).

The DPP’s policy on prosecuting cases of assisted suicide, including cases in which the assisted suicide takes place in Switzerland, has been discussed in a series of posts, the links to the most recent of which can be found in this post on the Caractacus Downes case. Earlier posts on the interim policy and the Purdy case can be found by scrolling through the posts tagged ‘Switzerland’.

TV: Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die

7 June 2011

BBC Two, Monday 13th June, 9pm-10pm, followed by Choosing to Die: Newsnight Debate, BBC Two, Monday 13th June, 10pm-10:30pm

From BBC News: “British author Sir Terry Pratchett is to participate in a BBC Two documentary about assisted suicide, it has been announced. The Discworld writer will travel to a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland with a 71-year-old who suffers from motor neurone disease. Sir Terry, who was diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer’s in 2008, said he was “a firm believer in assisted death” and wanted to learn more about it. …

“I believe everybody possessed of a debilitating and incurable disease should be allowed to pick the hour of their death,” Sir Terry said. “And I wanted to know more about Dignitas in case I ever wanted to go there myself.”

Last year, a UK inquiry into the issue of assisted dying was launched with funding from Sir Terry [the Commission on Assisted Dying].

The BBC’s commissioning editor for documentaries, Charlotte Moore, said: “Assisted death is an important topic of debate in the UK, and this is a chance for the BBC Two audience to follow Sir Terry as he wrestles with the difficult issues that many across Britain are also faced with.”

The documentary will also see the writer explore how different European countries deal with the issue.”

In the Newsnight special debate which follows, “Jeremy Paxman talks to Terry Pratchett about his documentary, and a panel of studio guests debate the issues surrounding assisted death.” (from the Radio Times)

Conference: The Europeanisation of healthcare

2 February 2011

Thursday 24 February 2011, 1.15 pm – 6.00 pm

Venue: Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, LONDON, W1G 0AE

This meeting is organised by the RSM Open Section in association with the European Association of Health Law and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London.

CPD: 3 credits (applied for)

Register now for this interdisciplinary afternoon meeting exploring current trends and practical realities in co-operative public health, individual healthcare and the medico-legal dimensions to these developments.

Speakers are figures directly involved in this Europeanisation of healthcare, including Dr Joana Namorado (EU), Professor Alberto Costa (Milan), Professor Jean McHale (Birmingham), Professor David Kerr (Oxford), Professor Mark McCarthy (UCL) and Alex Denoon (Lawford Davies).

The programme will examine:

  • Patient mobility; how the NHS interacts with the European dimension and reactions of healthcare consumers and policy makers
  • The need for a ‘common market’ in medical and healthcare research
  • Current regulatory issues and considerations of best practice from the medico-legal perspective


Workshop: Bodies across Borders: The global circulation of body parts, medical tourists and medical professionals

28 October 2010

Fondation Brocher, Switzerland, 15 – 17 December 2010

The fields of medicine and healthcare are being transformed by new communications and biomedical technologies, which have facilitated marked increases in the global circulation of body parts, patients and medical professionals across national borders. These movements often echo other movements of capital and resources, traveling from rural to urban areas, from poor to rich, and from the Global South to the Global North. These movements also raise a number of specific concerns depending on the kind of body (body part, patient or professional) circulating. Consequently academic and policy debates tend to focus on particular issues and perspectives with little opportunity for scholars, policy makers and professionals in medicine and healthcare to discuss their experiences and share insights into the different ways in which bodies cross national borders.

This workshop will bring together researchers working on different kinds of bodily circulations within the global healthcare and medical environments to explore common themes, concerns and issues, including:

–       The underlying structural and economic inequalities between nations and peoples which drive much of the trade in bodily commodities and movements of medical tourists and medical professionals.

–       The impacts of these movements on the health care industry of the countries that supply medical professionals, healthcare services and body-parts (usually in the Global South) and the countries that receive medical professionals, services and body parts (usually in the Global North).

–       The challenge of reconciling the practices, standards and expectations of medical professionals and patients from different countries and healthcare traditions and the question of how and to what extent these circulations of healthcare workers, medical tourists and bodily commodities should be internationally monitored and regulated.

The one-and-a-half day workshop will be organised thematically, with three separate sessions each focusing on a different kind of circulation. This will then be followed by a round-table discussion, focused on the key research questions outlined above, in order to identify shared themes and connections, and possibilities for future collaborations and research relationships.

The workshop is organised by members of the Health, Place and Society research theme, based in the Department of Geography, Queen Mary University of London and is sponsored by the Fondation Brocher. The workshop will be hosted by the Fondation Brocher, at their centre in Hermance, Switzerland.

A workshop programme is available here.

There are currently places remaining, so if you’d like to register and have not already done so, please contact Beth Greenhough ( for a registration form, outlining your interest in the workshop. The deadline for registrations is the 30 October 2010.

There are opportunities at the event for participants to display research posters. If you are interested in doing so, please contact Beth Greenhough (

If you are seeking funding, there are two forms of bursaries we can offer:

(1) The Fondation Brocher has offered a small number of bursaries to cover the registration fees for PhD students or those on a low income who wish to attend. to apply for this participants should attach a brief (1 -side A4 letter) to their registration form outlining their case for support.

(2) We are also now able to offer two bursaries of £250(UK) towards travel and accommodation costs for participants who are based in low income countries in the Global South. These will be allocated on a competitive basis by a panel who will review all applications. If you wish to apply for these, you need to send a 1-side A4 letter outlining
(a) your interest in the workshop and (b) reasons for seeking funding, and a short CV to Beth Greenhough (

The deadline for applications is the 30th October, with decisions by 10th November.

Conference call for proposals: The Globalization of Health Care: Legal and Ethical Challenges

20 October 2010

May 20-21, 2011

The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, in conjunction with the Harvard University Program on Ethics and Health, is pleased to announce plans for our annual conference, this year entitled: “The Globalization of Health Care: Legal and Ethical Challenges.” The one and a half day event will take place May 20 and 21st at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The increasing globalization of health care and its inputs provides new challenges for health law and bioethics. This conference will bring together leading scholars and policy-makers to discuss several overlapping and diverging instances of this globalization, to try and develop new strategies and paradigms.

We currently envision having panels with papers on the following topics, but this list is not exhaustive, such that participants are welcome to submit for review proposals on topics related to the conferences themes but not covered by this list:

Medical Tourism for Services Legal or Illegal in the Patient’s Home Country (E.g., Fertility Tourism, Death Tourism, Organ Tourism)
Medical Migration (Brain Drain)
Medical Repatriation
Parallel Drug Pricing, and Arbitrage in Pharmaceuticals across Borders
Research Tourism and Multi-Regional Clinical Trials
Policing Transnational Infectious Diseases and International Vaccine Development


Proposals for presentation topics are being accepted until October 25, 2010.