In December 2003 I was arrested for assisting the suicide of my older sister, Sue, who suffered from multiple sclerosis.
Sue worked as a bank manager until her muscles started wasting away to the point where she couldn't walk. All of our family helped look after her, and we had a lot of support from the medical team and carers. Sue's health went badly downhill in December 2002. She lost mobility and was in terrible pain. Because she was suffering so much, she decided she would end her life while she was still able so that she did not incriminate anyone else. She did not want anyone else to suffer because of her decision.
She told everyone, including her doctor and our mum and dad, that she was going to kill herself. She even wrote her Christmas cards early so we would have them on the day. Sue tried to end her life, but she was unsuccessful. Then she asked if I would be there for her when she died. She had already been through so much, I did not want her to be alone in her final hour.
She ended her life by taking some tablets and putting a plastic bag over her head. I sat with her and held her hand. It took Sue 26 hours to end her life. It was a harrowing experience.
After Sue had died, I called the doctor. The doctor got in touch with the coroner and I was arrested on suspicion of assisting in her suicide. I was stripped and searched, and it was the police who told my parents that Sue had died, not me. I spent 24 hours in the police station with all sorts of terrible things going through my mind. I knew I hadn't done anything wrong but I was scared.
This experience had a terrible effect on my dad and my mum, who became ill because of the stress of the investigation. It took 5 months to hold Sue's funeral because the police wouldn't release her body until they decided whether to prosecute me.
I don't regret being there for Sue. I do wish that she could have had a more dignified death. I wish a doctor could have helped her end her life quickly and without fear. When you are suffering as much as she did, the one thing you should have some control over is the way you die. The law put all of my family through appalling suffering. Please help change the law so that others do not have to suffer like Sue and my mum and dad.
The accounts made in the personal stories section of the Dignity in Dying website reflect the views of the authors. The views of Dignity in Dying may differ. For Dignity in Dying's mission please go to: http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/about.html
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