Amesbury woman in remission from cancer to brave head shave in aid of assisted dying campaign – on her 40th birthday
An Amesbury woman in remission from cancer is set to shave her head on her 40th birthday in a bid to raise funds for a cause that is close to her heart – the campaign to legalise assisted dying. Rachel Wilkinson launches her fundraising appeal today (21st January 2018) and hopes to raise hundreds of pounds for Dignity in Dying, a non-profit organisation campaigning for a change in the law to allow terminally ill people the right to die on their own terms. The head shave will take place the day before her 40th birthday (6th April 2018) at Earls Court Hair Studio in Amesbury.
Rachel, who has worked as a nursery manager, in a canine hydrotherapy centre and in a care home, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21 and has lived with various health conditions for many years. Rachel has long been a supporter of the Dignity in Dying campaign and feels strongly that she should have choice and control over her death if she were to become terminally ill.
Dignity in Dying has been supporting Noel Conway, a 68-year-old man with terminal motor neurone disease, to bring a judicial review challenging the current law on assisted dying. The case was rejected following a High Court hearing last summer, but on Thursday 18th January 2018, Noel won permission to appeal this decision. His case will now proceed to the Court of Appeal, with the next hearing likely to take place in the spring.
“I first got involved about seven years ago. It was after I lost my dear husband David, who was on a deployment to Afghanistan at the time. Losing him made me think more about death generally, and how important it is to have dignity at the end. I also saw my grandad suffer with lung cancer which had spread to his bones – he should have been able to say when enough was enough, not struggle on in pain. I do hope Noel’s case is successful – I would want the same for myself if I were in his position.”
Rachel has made a Living Will, now called an Advance Decision, which states that she wants to refuse life-prolonging treatment in future if a severe illness or injury caused her to lose mental capacity. She has even gone to the lengths of having the phrase ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ tattooed across her chest. Last year Rachel also decided to join the Swiss organisation Dignitas.
“I am very convinced by my wishes. Of course, I hope I never need to go there, but it was the only way to give me peace of mind about the future. I am so angry that this option isn’t allowed for terminally ill people in the UK. Why should I have to go overseas to have a peaceful, dignified assisted death? That is why I’m supporting Dignity in Dying.”
Rachel has not celebrated a birthday since losing David in 2007 but she knew he would have wanted her to do something wild to mark her 40th.
“I’d always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro or trek the Sahara, but sadly my health issues mean that those are out of the question. A head shave is something I definitely can do, and hopefully it will get people talking.
“I decided to launch my fundraising appeal on the 21st of January, David’s birthday, and to use my 40th as an opportunity to raise money for a cause very close to my heart. I want to help bring awareness of this issue to my local community – to be honest, that’s more important to me than the money.”
The head shave will take place on the 6th of April 2018, the day before Rachel’s birthday, at Earls Court Hair Studio, where she has been a customer for 14 years. She hopes to donate some of her hair to the Little Princess Trust, a charity which makes wigs for children suffering with hair loss.
Donations can be made to Rachel’s head shave fundraiser at www.justgiving.com
For more information about Dignity in Dying, visit www.dignityindying.org.uk
For further information, photos or interviews please contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 0207 479 7732 / 07725 433 025.
Notes to Editor
About the Noel Conway case
Noel Conway, 68, from Shrewsbury, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, in November 2014. His condition is incurable and terminal.
Noel feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law. He fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes. Noel is bringing this case, supported by Dignity in Dying, to fight for his right to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life.
The case was thrown out in October 2017 following a hearing at the High Court in July – however the judgment did confirm that the courts have the authority to make a declaration of incompatibility between the 1961 Suicide Act (which criminalised assisting someone to die) and human rights legislation.
On the 18th of January 2018, Noel was granted permission to appeal the High Court’s earlier decision. His case will now proceed to the Court of Appeal in the spring.
About Dignity in Dying
Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
For more information, visit www.dignityindying.org.uk