NEW - Chris Larner
Chris Larner's story:
My ex-wife Allyson Lee was an energetic, fun-loving woman and lived with MS for almost 30 years. In the last 10 years her MS progressed, leaving her housebound, doubly incontinent, distressed by constant muscle spasms and reliant on carers: and with no hope of her health improving. Allyson was very clear that it was her right to do what she wanted with her life. Besides the fear of eventually losing her sight, speech and ability to swallow, she was devastated about being unable to walk and her loss of independence. She always loved being on the stage so it was just awful for her. She was miserable and just wanted relief. She took the decision to go to Dignitas and end her life there. I accompanied her. This was November, 2010.
There was no farewell party in England because Allyson wouldn't have had the energy. But a steady trickle of close friends and relatives had visited her to wish her well and everyone important to her was told beforehand of her decision. On the morning of her death, her mobile started buzzing with texts from the same folk back home offering their goodbyes. From the Dignitas apartment in Switzerland we also made phone calls and then sat reading some cards Allyson had brought with her. It is very, very hard saying goodbye.
I don't see why people such as Allyson should have to face a journey to Switzerland for a dignified death when they could have one here. Our laws are a fudge on the issue, and I believe we're just shunting the problem on for another country to deal with. I feel those people who express great moral outrage, who would condemn Allyson to more pain and more trauma, are the ones who are really being cruel.
The actual experience in Switzerland was - of course - upsetting and gruelling, although it did allow Allyson to die relatively peacefully and that is what she wanted. It certainly was Allyson's contention that she ought to have had the right to have died at home. How anybody without a bit of money behind them, or without the support of friends and relatives, gets to Dignitas, god only knows. People don't, I guess, and suffer as a result.
I have written a play - An Instinct for Kindness - that I am hoping will not only serve the memory of my dear ex-wife, and voice her anger about having to go to Switzerland to exercise what she considered to be her right; but will add to the growing debate surrounding the whole issue of assisted dying. The law in this country is outdated and many terminally ill people are suffering against their wishes at the end of their lives. It is time our lawmakers show compassion and I firmly believe that assisted dying should be legalised in the UK.
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