Friends, this was unexpected.
In the last couple of weeks Ellie, at Dignity in Dying, has been talking to me about using my ‘story’ in their ongoing campaign. You might know that on Wednesday their Chair, Baroness Meacher, introduced an Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Lords. D in D are trying to get maximum support and have been approaching newspapers.
It seems The Times might want something from me for their campaign a little later, but suddenly, mid-afternoon two days ago, The Telegraph asked Ellie to get 700 words from me by 09.00 the next day, yesterday morning. Late that night I sent her around 850 words. She reduced it and we agreed a somewhat watered down version by 08.55 yesterday, which she sent off to the Telegraph just in time. We had no idea when or if it would be published.
Then later yesterday, mid-afternoon, Ellie suddenly emailed again to say it had gone live on the Telegraph’s online version. The link is here. That shows the article and also any subsequent comments which, given that it’s a controversial topic, could be very interesting! It’s all behind a paywall, so if you don’t already subscribe you have to sign up – but it’s free for a month and you can cancel any time.
Ellie kindly also sent the text in her email, and here it is:
As someone dying of a terminal illness, I support the Assisted Dying Bill
Palliative care can smother pain and ultimately consciousness, but it does not mitigate all suffering
DAVID PEACE 28 May 2021 • 4:31pm
I am terminally ill with motor neurone disease, for which there is no cure. Protracted suffering and a very unpleasant death await me as the disease spreads throughout my whole body, paralysing every muscle. Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill, introduced to the House of Lords this week, gives comfort to people like me, approaching their final months of life.
The hoped-for change in the law will come too late for me but I am writing this in the earnest hope that before too long the fear and horror felt by British citizens with life-ending conditions will be assuaged by a sensible, well-safeguarded legal system to help them to die with dignity in the last period of their lives.
Baroness Campbell has argued against this Bill. As a disabled person, she has her own experience and views. But she cannot claim to speak for all terminally ill people.
I was diagnosed in July 2019. As of today I cannot speak, eat, drink or swallow. I communicate via text-to-speech software. I syringe liquid nutrition into my stomach via an external pipe, and every day I choke on saliva and mucus in my throat. At any point I might not pull through that awful daily experience. In addition my head is slumped on my chest unless I wear uncomfortable and very limiting neck braces. My left arm, hand and leg are weak. Walking is becoming riskier and balance is unpredictable. Breathing becomes more difficult as the disease starts to attack my lungs. More and more muscles are being robbed of their strength. I watch and feel it happen day by day. It cannot be stopped.
I am not depressed. But I am a realist. I know what to expect at the end. It will be dreadful. That is why, two days after the diagnosis in 2019, I became a member of Dignitas and early last year began the application process in earnest, which was approved. This is my insurance policy against a bad death.
Having this option in place ensures I can have a quiet, calm, dignified and easy end of life with Dignitas, at any date we agree. I was deeply comforted by one of the necessary consultations with one of their doctors – a requirement as part of their safeguarding procedures which I brought forward because of my disappearing voice.
I plan to go to Dignitas to end my life later this year, but I have pandemic regulations in Switzerland and Britain to contend with, as well as my own strength in order to withstand the journey. If either fails me, I will be trapped in my home country; a country that refuses to help me die the way I want.
All terminally ill, mentally competent adults who know how their particular illness will kill them, and who do not want the increasing suffering before the end, surely deserve help. Many want to keep control, to decide on a calm, quiet, comfortable and dignified death in their own country, possibly at home, with those whom they love and who love them. Our rational wish is to manage the end of our lives the way we want, rather than via the inevitable suffering that these cruel terminal illnesses impose on us.
Palliative care can smother pain and ultimately consciousness, but it does not mitigate all suffering. The prospects of more and more pills, opiates and sedation, tubes into the throat and other interventions – those prospects are dire compared with the Bill’s prospect of a calm, organised, pain-free and dignified end of life in Britain.
To the terminally ill, Baroness Meacher’s Bill gives peace of mind. As in other countries it will mean people will not have to resort to suicide attempts, many of which fail with awful consequences to the individuals and their loved ones. It will provide autonomy and control. It will save individuals the £10,000 required for a legal end of life in Switzerland, beyond the pockets of most sufferers. It will avoid great disruption in planning and making an international journey at the most vulnerable time of one’s life.
Legislators in territories around the world provide such help for their terminally ill citizens. Surely the Brits are worthy of the same.
Frankly I’d never intended to get involved in promoting changes to the law, and I’m a bit apprehensive at how this is developing, but given my condition and prospects I’m beginning to feel, “What the hell! Might as well!”