“People suffer at the end of life, and therefore people take difficult decisions about their own deaths. As uncomfortable as it may be we need to face up to the reality of what is going on, both at home and abroad”
The BBC today screened the documentary Choosing to Die presented by the author Sir Terry Pratchett. The programme showed the death of Peter Smedley, who was terminally ill with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) at Dignitas in Switzerland, as well as speaking to Andrew Colgan about his end-of-life decisions, and Mike, a man living with MND, who does not want to choose an assisted death.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:
“Choosing to die is deeply moving and at times difficult to watch. It clearly did not seek to hide the realities of assisted dying. In setting out one person’s (Sir Terry Pratchett’s) views on the right to control our own deaths, it challenges all of us to address this important issue head on and ask what choices we want for ourselves at the end of life.
“The documentary raised a number of concerns about the current law. When people like Peter Smedley and Andrew Colgan who want to choose an assisted death have to travel abroad to do so, they are forced to die earlier than they would want to, in order that they are physically able to travel and act independently, so as not to put their loved ones at risk of prosecution. Surely it would be better to give terminally ill adults the choice of an assisted death at home and with their loved ones around them, if their suffering becomes unbearable. Such a law would also allow us to set out our own safeguards, rather than relying on Switzerland to protect potentially vulnerable Britons from abuse”.
“At the heart of the assisted dying debate, and Choosing to Die, is choice and protection. People suffer at the end of life, and therefore people take difficult decisions about their own deaths. As uncomfortable as it may be we need to face up to the reality of what is going on, both at home and abroad. As this programme shows, people suffering at the end of their lives are travelling abroad for help to die, but there are also those who are ending their lives at home, behind closed doors, or with the help of doctors and loved ones who are helping illegally. An assisted dying law with upfront safeguards would investigate a request to die when the person is still alive and alternative options can be set out. This would better protect potentially vulnerable people and provide choice at the end of life for those suffering unbearably.”
Dignity in Dying campaigns for a change in the law to allow the choice of assisted dying to terminally ill, mentally competent adults only. As the documentary highlights, terminal illness is not a requirement for assistance to die in Switzerland.
Notes to editor:
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.
- Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
- The British Social Attitudes Survey 2010 found that 92% of non-religious and 71% of religious people support assisted dying. This relates to overall support of 82%.
For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.