My name is Paul Chamberlain and I am a 66-year-old retired Chartered Accountant. Three years ago I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) – there is no cure, it is terminal and it can be a horrible way to die.
My breathing has been affected and I am now on a ventilator for 12 to14 hours a day. My neurologist tells me my muscles will gradually waste away until my breathing muscles fail and I will die. Most people with MND lose the power to communicate and some have to be fed through a tube. Throughout my decline my brain will remain fully active and alert. These are the facts, but this is not to say I am miserable, far from it. I remain positive; I still play bridge (I have a cardholder) and have an active social life.
I appear to have three options:
1. Accept a potentially very unpleasant death.
2. Go to Switzerland for help to die.
3. Take my own life.
The first entails unnecessary suffering for me and my family who will have to witness my decline.
The second means travelling across Europe, which is fairly expensive, and I do not like the thought of my wife of 42 years having to travel home alone with an empty wheelchair. Why should I have to go abroad? My wife also runs the risk of being prosecuted for assisting a suicide, with up to 14 years in jail. Although this risk has been reduced in recent years, it still remains the law in England and Wales.
My third option means an amateur attempt at suicide, hoping I obtain the right drugs and that they do the job, rather than leave me with terrible side effects. I have ruled out a violent suicide, as it is likely to cause trauma to those who have to deal with the aftermath. There is also another downside to this option. I would like to donate my brain and spine to MND research. If I take my own life, this would not be possible.
A fourth option – a certain and peaceful death
There should be a fourth way, a certain and peaceful death, with a drug provided by a doctor, at home and surrounded by my family. This is why I joined Dignity in Dying and strongly support their campaign for a change in the law to allow assisted dying. There need to be safeguards, such as two doctors certifying the person concerned is mentally competent and is making a settled and informed decision without third party influence. The individual concerned must also have a terminal illness and be within a few months of death.
It would be of enormous comfort to me and my family if a peaceful end was available when the time is right for me.
“The ‘slippery slope’ argument is not a specific argument against the proposed Assisted Dying law.”
Since becoming a member of Dignity in Dying I have had an interview with The Guardian and a debate with opponent Kevin Fitzpatrick on Sky News. This has allowed me to engage in some of the arguments against legalising assisted dying for the terminally ill and I have found them wanting. I was already prepared for a robust debate, after all I had seen a previous video with Mr Fitzpatrick who said “If anyone who fears unbearable suffering at the end of their lives has really good palliative care, really good treatment, why then would they want to die?’ Well, I had my opportunity to explain why I would want to die and it shows how some people clearly have no idea how a terminally ill patient might think.
The evidence is also on my side, in the US state of Oregon where the Death with Dignity Act has been in existence for approximately 15 years, there have been no moves to widen the criteria and there has been no evidence of abuse.
It seems to me that the ‘slippery slope’ argument is not a specific argument against the proposed Assisted Dying law. Rather, it appears to say ‘I have no argument with this particular law, but I have concerns that I may have objections to any future, as yet unspecified law, which nobody has yet proposed.’ It is not conducive to a mature and sensible debate which this issue calls for; it is frustrating that people are trying to impose their view on me by using inaccurate facts and misleading arguments.
Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill
Lord Falconer has recently presented an Assisted Dying Bill to the House of Lords. I understand some Lords have already indicated they are fundamentally opposed to the Bill, without bothering to hear the debate and listen to the arguments. I wonder if they would feel the same if they were in my position. I have a question for those opposed to the Assisted Dying Bill. No matter how good the palliative care, I am facing a lingering and very unpleasant death.
‘Can they look me in the eye and tell me they are determined to ensure I have that lingering and very unpleasant death?’