“He did not have a good death”: these reticent words from a grieving Solihull widow were all that she felt able to say of the prolonged intense emotional and physical suffering her husband endured before his death. She added, “I have joined joined Dignity in Dying”. A Birmingham resident last week told the writer that her father, in similar circumstances, had asked for strychnine to be procured for him.
A condition not included in the demands of this organisation but recognised by medics and Dignitas as terminal, is dementia. Dementia is not just an enhanced state of memory loss – an inconvenience – but can adversely affect the whole personality. A Birmingham resident who shared care of a formerly bright and independent relative with this condition for two years had to contend with extreme physical aggression, incontinence and refusal to wash.
It is the core goal of Dignitas that one day nobody in the UK or any other country needs to travel to Switzerland for a self-determined end of suffering and life anymore.
People who would opt for assisted dying when diagnosed with dementia, and who have made the declaration whilst still in good health, should be given every facility in their region. For years Scandinavian countries have had a range of acceptable provision and a few American states. Only Switzerland, with compassion, offers this facility to foreigners. As respected journalist Simon Jenkins notes, an average of twenty people a month kill themselves ‘surreptitiously’ at home and two terminally ill people a month go to Switzerland to end their lives.
At the moment the medical and care industries – a powerful parliamentary lobby – have a vested interest in prolonging the unhappy lives of such people, profiting by payments from their families and the state.
The human right to control the circumstances of one’s own death was asserted by Dr Atul Gawande in a recent Reith lecture.
Simon Jenkins wrote that right-to-die campaigner, Debbie Purdy’s life and death by self-starvation – forced on her by parliament – should be celebrated by the Commons passing the House of Lords’ “dignity in dying” bill forthwith.
As he continues: an overwhelming majority of the public – 60-70% – wants it. The weight of legal and ethical opinion wants it. Eighty of the great and good writing to the Daily Telegraph at the weekend want it. Objection, he adds, is largely confined to religious prejudice and medical authoritarianism.
Simon Jenkins concludes that Debbie Purdy’s husband thanked the Marie Curie hospice in Bradford for helping his wife through the awful experience of self-starvation forced on her by parliament:
“How much better if he were now able to thank parliament for relieving others of having to face the same ordeal”.
- A final message from Brittany Maynard, of Portland, Oregon, who legally took medicine prescribed by a doctor when she was at home, surrounded by her loved ones: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11205450/Right-to-die-Brittany-Maynard-was-allowed-to-choose-how-she-died.-My-dad-wasnt.html
- The Cambridge Union Society – This House Would Legalise ‘Assisted Dying’. The speakers in favour of freedom of choice in “last matters” win the debate by a clear 207 to 67 votes (with 54 abstaining). When will UK politicians listen? https://www.cus.org/civicrm/event/info?id=558&reset=1 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2PicFB6onE
- George Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury explains why he now supports helping some terminally ill patients to die: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2689295/Carey-Ive-changed-mind-right-die-On-eve-Lords-debate-ex-Archbishop-dramatically-backs-assisted-death-law.html