One Briton travels to Dignitas every fortnight and almost one terminally ill person ends their own life every day in the UK.
Bob Cole, 68, from Chester travelled to Dignitas on Wednesday morning and is expected to have an assisted death on Friday afternoon. He is the first Briton to publically speak about going to Dignitas before he has died and has called on MPs to support the Assisted Dying Bill that is due for debate in the House of Commons on Friday 11th September.
Bob is the latest terminally ill Briton to travel to Switzerland to have an assisted death, with one Briton every two weeks travelling to Dignitas. Over 300 terminally ill people end their own lives in this country every year, often in dangerous and undignified ways.
In June this year Bob was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by asbestos that Bob most likely contracted when working as an apprentice carpenter in the 1960s. Bob was given a prognosis of three months by his oncologist in July and told that he was too weak for chemotherapy. Despite the best efforts of his healthcare team, Bob has been in severe pain and wants to control the manner and timing of his death, which he is unable to do in this country. In 2014, Bob accompanied his wife Ann Hall, who was suffering from supranuclear palsy (PSP), to Dignitas and on his return joined the campaign for assisted dying.
Speaking to The Sun, Bob Cole, said:
“I’ve no wish to die in pain without any dignity. When my wife went to Dignitas it was graceful, it was quiet, it was dignified. Annie was absolutely determined. Everyone should be allowed the choice to die with dignity, which is exactly what Ann chose to do – and is exactly what I will do today.”
“I should be able to die with dignity in my own country, in my own bed. The law needs to change.”
Speaking in response of Bob’s decision to travel to Dignitas Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:
“Bob’s decision is yet another reminder that the current law is broken. Parliament’s job is to fix the law so people like Bob and his wife Ann are no longer forced to travel abroad to simply have control over the manner and timing of their own deaths.”
“The British public know that the law as it stands is cruel and lacks compassion, which is why 82% support legalising assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. Parliament has an opportunity to change the law on Friday 11th September and introduce a safeguarded system that protects the vulnerable while giving terminally ill people the choice to safely control the timing and manner of their deaths without exposing their loved ones to prosecution.”
“We need everyone that supports assisted dying to contact their MP to tell them to support the Bill in September. It is vital that MPs listen to the voices of terminally ill people like Bob, and the majority of the British public who want the law to be changed, rather than being swayed by the scare stories of a vocal minority who oppose any change in the law on principle.”
Notes for editor:
- The current law means that anyone accompanying someone to have an assisted death overseas (or providing other assistance) can face up to 14 years in prison.
- Rob Marris MP has introduced an Assisted Dying Bill into the House of Commons after coming top in the ballot for Private Members Bills, and it will have its Second Reading on Friday 11th September. It is closely based on a Bill that Lord Falconer introduced into the House of Lords last year, which won two votes during Committee Stage, but ran out of time before the General Election.
- The largest ever survey on assisted dying in April 2015 (5,000 adults conducted by Populus) found that 82% of the public support the assisted dying proposals. More polling data is available here (https://www.dignityindying.org.uk/press-release/poll-assisted-dying/) or on request.
- Numbers travelling to Dignitas are based on Dignitas’ annual report, numbers ending their own lives is based on a freedom of information request by Dignity in Dying in 2014 which can be read here.
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.