Woman loses UK High Court case on assisted suicide

A woman with multiple sclerosis has lost her High Court case to guarantee her husband immunity from persecution if he assists her commit suicide. Under UK law, aiding or abetting a suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. However, wheelchair bound Debbie Purdy, 45 wanted clarification on how prosecutions for assisted suicides are reached.


Lord Justice Scott Baker said that the law was clear, and while he had sympathy for Purdy only parliament could change the law.


“We cannot leave this case without expressing great sympathy for Ms Purdy, her husband and others in a similar position who wish to know in advance whether they will face prosecution. This would involve a change in the law. The offence of assisted suicide is very widely drawn to cover all manner of different circumstances; only parliament can change it.”

Outside the courtroom, Purdy said she was “really disappointed” with the ruling and would take her case to the Court of Appeal.

“We still don’t know how we can make sure that we stay within the law, because I’m certainly not prepared for Omar to break the law – I’m not prepared for him to face jail.How can we make sure that we act within the law if they won’t tell us in what circumstances they would prosecute?”

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News Brief: Recent Events in Global Health Law

Chile’s Health Minister Soledad Barria is resigning over concerns that the government failed to notify people who had tested positive for HIV/AIDS.  Washington Post

Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients.  Similar results have been found in surveys from Denmark, Israel, Britain, Sweden and New Zealand.  N.Y. Times

American spending on diabetes drugs has nearly doubled in the past six years, climbing to a record $12.5 billion.  The rise in spending seems to be driven by new, costly drugs and increased numbers of people being treated for the disease.  Washington Post

Polio infections are increasing and spreading to new countries. Since April, outbreaks have been found in 10 countries beyond the 4 in which polio is considered endemic (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan). N.Y. Times

Today’s smokers are more nicotine-dependent than earlier; there has been a 12 percent rise in nicotine dependence over the past 15 years.  The number of highly nicotine-dependent people has gone up 32 percent in that same time frame.  Washington Post

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

Internet Pharmacies: Global Threat Requires a Global Approach to Regulation

Carlisle E. George
Middlesex University


Hertfordshire Law Journal , Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 12-25, 2006



This paper investigates the growing phenomenon of selling drugs and medical services over the Internet via Internet Pharmacies. It discusses some of the benefits of Internet Pharmacies and some serious concerns that they bring for regulators, governments and global consumers. In addition, the paper compares regulatory frameworks governing the operation of Internet Pharmacies in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), to illustrate some of the challenges related to differences. Some of these comparisons relate to regulatory structure, advertising of prescription drugs, online prescribing, data protection, policy on importing drugs for personal use and self-regulation/certification of websites. In assessing reasons for differences in the two jurisdictions, the paper concludes that these are due to various historic, economic, geographic and political factors. The paper argues that continuing regulatory challenges arise due to the nature of the Internet, jurisdiction issues, economic realities, and a lack of harmonisation of regulatory policy at an international/global level. The paper further argues that a global approach is needed to regulate online medical services, because of the potential threat to the health and well-being of the global community.

Available at SSRN

South Africa Uses Innovative Technology to Encourage AIDS Testing and Treatment

As reported by the BBC, South Africa is about to use text messaging technology to spread the word about getting tested for HIV/AIDS.  Starting on December 1, 2008, 1 million text messages will be sent in both English and local dialects like Zulu encouraging people to get tested and treated for HIV/AIDS. 

Estimates suggested that the 49 million South Africans have 43 million mobile phones, making text messaging and easier way to reach South African’s citizens.  South Africa also has a free text messaging system by which one person can send a free text message with the heading “please call me” and their phone number, usually followed by advertising to offset the cost of the free messages.  In this instance, the messages will be followed by a 120 character message advocating testing and treatment; “Worried that you might have HIV and want to talk to a counsellor about getting tested? Call Aids helpline 0800012322.”   

This system will eventually be used to spread information about tuberculosis. Continue reading

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

Doctors as Advocates, Lawyers as Healers

Georgia State University – College of Law

Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-08
Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy, Vol. 29, 2008


This essay explores some counterintuitive propositions to see what they may add to our understanding of the role of doctors and lawyers in health care conflict resolution. The essay first explains what is meant by a fiduciary relationship. It then discusses how taking this fiduciary concept seriously may unsettle part of our conventional views of doctors as healers and lawyers as advocates. Indeed, taking the fiduciary concept seriously may turn these views on their heads. Finally, this essay explores whether viewing doctors as advocates and lawyers as healers, consistent with our core understandings of the professional and ethical responsibilities of practitioners in each profession, might improve the prospects for conflict resolution in health care.

AIDS Treatment Should Start Earlier Than Previously Thought

The Washington Post is reporting that AIDS treatment should begin sooner than originally thought.  A study partially paid for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found a 70% improvement in those who started therapy when their T-cell count was between 350 and 500, compared to those who waited until their T-cell count dropped to 350–the initiation point under current guidelines.  The studies show that holding off treatment until the immune system suffers serious damage nearly doubles the risk of dying within the next few years.  Moreover, patients who start their treatment earlier have a better chance of getting their T-cell count back to normal.

Read more about current AIDS treatment guidelines, after the jump. Continue reading

News Brief: Recent Events in Global Health Law

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vows that China’s food exports would meet international standards and win the trust of people around the world by improving legislation in food safety and product quality.  Associated Foreign Press

Pakistan’s Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the federal and Sindh governments to establish a Federal Mental Health Authority (FMHA), calling the establishment of such an authority mandatory.  Daily Times

Thailand’s new new Public Health Minister Chalerm Yubamrung backed away from his earlier announced intention to push for a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol on religious holidays and on the New Year.  Bangkok Post

The United States pledged an additional $320 million to the global fight against bird flu.  This brings the United States’ contributions to fighting the pandemic to $949 million.  Bird flu has killed 245 people in Asia, Africa, and Europe since late 2003.  The Guardian

A dramatic drop in hospitalization and emergency room visits has been noticed since a vaccine against rotavirus, the leading cause of diarrhea in infants, was introduced two years ago.  As a surprising note, the same drop has been noted even among children who have not been vaccinated because the number of infections in the community that kids can pick up and spread is cut.  Washington Post

The credit crunch is likely to hit the discovery and production of many new medicines, experts are warning as fewer investors are willing to invest money in biotech firms.  BBC News