Dr Anne Turner

Dr Anne Turner explains in her own words why she went abroad for assistance to die.

The reason I want an assisted suicide is because, at the end of November 2004, I was diagnosed with PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy), a neurological degenerative disease for which there is no treatment or cure. Dr Thomas Stuttaford, writing in The Times in April 2002 said:

It is said that old doctors in their prayers don’t thank God for their continuing survival, but rather recite a litany of the diseases they wish to be spared. Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) would be near the top of every praying doctor’s list.

I am nearly 67, and a retired medical doctor. My husband, also a medical doctor, died in September 2002 aged 72 of MSA (Multiple Systems Atrophy). In January 2002 his brother (younger by only a few years and not living anywhere near here) died of Motor Neurone Disease. Apparently PSP is somewhat akin to MSA. Dudley Moore, a well-known entertainer, died of it in 2002 and at the end of his life was unable to walk, talk, swallow, or even blink.

I do not want to end up like that. That is the main reason for my wanting to commit suicide. Now I am finding walking, speaking and swallowing increasingly difficult and have had a series of nasty falls. I broke my wrist twice and thumb once earlier last year and seemed to spend the early half of the year in plaster and waiting for hours in Out-patients’. These fractures were the result of falls.

I started having falls in January 2003, which I put down to carelessness and I was unaware of my slurred speech. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in February 2004. I was then investigated for the falls and slurred speech as I had had a dreadful fall before the mastectomy and was very bruised. An MRI scan did not show very much but a diagnosis of “mini-strokes” was made in May 2004. It was only because I reported deterioration in my speech in summer 2004 that I was referred to a neurologist who made the diagnosis of PSP. Because the diagnosis is so devastating I sought a second opinion, which confirmed the diagnosis.

I have discussed the question of suicide with my three children and my sister and one or two friends whom I had to tell. In fact I tried to commit suicide on 9 October 2005 and was very nearly successful. The net result was that I spent most of the next day asleep in the company of my above-mentioned family and it was after that that I contacted Dignitas to start the process of applying for assisted suicide.

I have been seen by one psychiatrist three times (and she also saw my children) and by another one once and they left no questions about my soundness of mind. Nor did they think I was depressed and I do not think I am. I know that I cry a lot but I also laugh inappropriately. I think it is all part of the emotional lability, which is a feature of PSP.

Applying for assisted suicide with Dignitas is a lengthy process but eventually I was able to fix a date which is 24 January 2006 a day before my 67th birthday. My three children all support my decision, especially as we have all seen the effect of a very similar illness in my husband: his terrible suffering, loss of dignity and his long slow demise.

I feel strongly that assisted suicide should become legal in this country. In order to ensure that I am able to swallow the medication that will kill me, I have to go to Switzerland before I am totally incapacitated and unable to travel. If I knew that when things got so bad, I would be able to request assisted suicide in Britain then I would not have to die before I am completely ready to do so.

I know that I am more fortunate than many other people in my situation, in that I have the knowledge and the finances and the support of my family to make assisted suicide in Switzerland possible.

To die with dignity should be everybody’s right.

Dr Turner died with medical assistance in Switzerland on Tuesday 24 January 2006

 

Links:

Anne’s story on the BBC website

In The Daily Telegraph

In The Independent

Read a statement from Dr Anne Turner’s children

 

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.

 

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Should you want to contact any of the people featured in these pages, or wish to share your own story with us, please contact Jo Cartwright:

020 7479 7737 or 07725 433 025

jo.cartwright@dignityindying.org.uk