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UK court says lawyers can help right-to-die man

LONDON (AP) – A paralyzed British man who wants to die won the first round in his legal battle Friday, when the High Court ruled his lawyers won’t be prosecuted if they seek out experts to help him commit suicide.

The man, who is in his 40s and identified only as Martin, has locked-in syndrome after a stroke and communicates by moving his eyes. He says he wants to end his life, and his lawyers sought a declaration that they could seek information about his options _ including Swiss assisted-suicide clinics _ to help him prepare a legal challenge.

Under British law, assisting a suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but convictions are rare. More than 100 Britons have died in clinics run by the Swiss group Dignitas since 1998, and no relative or friend has been charged.

In Martin’s case, lawyers say neither his wife nor any other member of his family is willing to help him die.

Two judges declared Friday that the lawyers could obtain information from experts and “identify one or more people or bodies that might be willing to assist Martin.”

Martin’s lawyers still plan to go to court seeking clarification of guidelines laid out by the country’s chief prosecutor in 2010, which listed mitigating factors, such as compassion, in cases of assisted suicide.

Martin’s lawyers want a declaration that professionals they find to help their client end his life will not face criminal or disciplinary action in doing so.

Rosa Curling, one of Martin’s lawyers, welcomed the ruling.

“Martin has made clear to us that he wishes to end his life, and, thanks to the judgment handed down today in the High Court, we can now proceed with preparing his legal claim,” she said.

“We can instruct doctors to advise him on his options regarding his wish to die and also take steps to identify an individual who might be willing to assist him in taking his life.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)