I joined Dignity in Dying for two reasons. Firstly because I believe that dying people should be able to have choice and control over the timing and manner of their death, and secondly because I believe an assisted dying law with clear safeguards would be far safer than the current situation, where attempted suicides and illegal assisted deaths are swept under the carpet. Pretending these things aren’t happening does not protect anyone, and denying dying people choice causes fear and suffering.
Over the years that I’ve worked at Dignity in Dying I’ve spoken to many dying people who were desperate for the choice of an assisted death at home with their loved ones around them – a choice that the law denied them. These conversations have been variously inspiring, humbling, incredibly sad, and sometimes very frustrating. But my experience here has taught me that however tempting it might be to give up, we shouldn’t. It’s easy to forget it, but we all have the power to make a difference to the society we live in. In the last decade we have seen great strides forward for patient choice: people now have the right to make advance refusals of treatment or nominate a trusted person to make health decisions for them should they lose capacity; we have seen more Government and media attention on improving access to end-of-life care than ever before; and the Debbie Purdy case has led to greater clarity on how compassionately motivated friends and family will be treated by the legal system should they assist a loved one to die, at their request. These changes, and victories across the world for equality and justice, show that by campaigning together we can make a positive difference for the common good.
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