‘Why do you work for Dignity in Dying’ is not an uncommon question to be asked in a taxi, the pub, at a family gathering, over the garden fence etc., and so it’s something I have given some thought to over the six years I’ve been involved in the campaign. I have given a number of answers, but basically I’m here because I have witnessed some considerable suffering because there is no compassionate assisted dying law.
The most confronting was the 27 year old woman I cared for, as part of my job as a nursing assistant, who spent a year suffering horrifically from Huntington’s Disease and cancer. Her mum supported her husband in his final years with Huntington’s Disease, and fifteen years later saw her daughter suffer a worse death because she was young and her organs were strong.
In a more protracted story of suffering, my Grandma spent the last decade of her life fearing her own death – she was not afraid of dying, in fact it was something she longed for at times, but she was afraid that she would suffer unbearably, so much so that she stockpiled medication in order to have some control over her death, unbeknown to her family until after she had died.
Both of these experiences would have been better for those involved and those who loved them had we had an assisted dying law in the UK. I think the young woman I cared for would have probably chosen an assisted death, and been spared weeks of suffering at the very end of her life. She would have at the least been able to discuss the option, and know that she didn’t have to have a bad death if she didn’t want to. And my grandma would have known that if she faced the death she most feared, she would have had a way out which would have prevented her from suffering unbearably and against her wishes, and she would have had a happier retirement as a result.
These remarkable women are the two major reasons I got involved, and the hundreds of people whose stories I have heard since becoming involved are why I am still here.
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