In September I decided to travel abroad to die. Having made the necessary arrangements, in October I contacted Dignity in Dying and asked for their help in making my views on assisted dying public. Below is an open letter to anyone and everyone who is interested and concerned about the issue. I have asked Dignity in Dying to distribute it to the media on my behalf when I am in Zurich.
My name is Geraldine McClelland and I have chosen to die today.
I am 61 years old and am dying from lung and liver cancer, which metastasised from my breast cancer two years ago. I spent my working life at the BBC, producing programmes such as Watchdog, Food and Drink, Health Check and Crimewatch. I was fortunate to be able to retire ten years ago and have been able to thoroughly enjoy my retirement, travelling the world. The lung cancer is now causing me serious breathing problems, meaning I am largely confined to my flat.
I have chosen to travel abroad to die because I can not have the death I want here in the UK. I would like to be able to choose to take medication to end my life if my suffering becomes unbearable for me, at home, with my family and friends around me. But the law in this country prevents me from doing so. As a result I am travelling abroad to take advantage of Switzerland’s compassionate law. I was worried this option would be taken away from me when the Swiss people were asked to vote on whether British people (and other non-Swiss) should be allowed to continue to have an assisted death there. Thankfully they voted overwhelmingly to continue to let people like me have the death I choose, albeit in a foreign country.
I am not sad that I will die today. I am angry that because of the cowardice of our politicians I can’t die in the country I was born in, in my own home, but I am not sad. I feel sure this is the right decision for me and I am relieved that I won’t be forced to suffer any more. Please don’t feel sad for me either. If you feel anything at all when you read this letter then please turn it into a fight to change the law so that other people don’t have to travel abroad to die, and that those who are unable to because they can’t travel, or can’t afford the fees don’t have to attempt suicide at home or continue to suffer against their will. In that respect I am one of the lucky ones.
I believe that as part of my end of life care, which has otherwise been good, I should have been allowed to choose not to endure the last weeks of my life, and I believe you should have that choice when you are dying too. I don’t believe that my brother and sister should have to break the law so that they can be with me when I die. Your loved ones should not be in that position either. My decision is made, I choose to die on my own terms and with my family around me in Zurich, and it’s too late to change the law for me, but please, if you care about this issue at all please make your voice heard. I appreciate that it is a difficult subject, but when dying cannot be avoided, let us be compassionate enough and tolerant enough to respect choice.