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Media stories from 2011

8th December, Sky News, Geraldine McClelland’s assisted death in Dignitas and release of her public letter (widely covered)

Former BBC producer and terminally ill cancer patient Geraldine McClelland planned to have an assisted death in Switzerland and wanted to campaign for assisted dying in the last few weeks of her life. She wrote an open letter expressing her choice to die, and her belief that assisted dying should be legalised in the UK, which was released by Dignity in Dying on Thursday morning. Before she left for Switzerland, Gerry was also interviewed by Sky News.

7th December, Guardian, Murder law reform urged by Parliamentary Advisory Group

A Homicide Review Advisory Group report stated that the British law on murder is shockingly out of date because it requires a “mandatory” life sentence of at least 15 years for a crime that ‘lumps together premeditated killing, mercy killing, killing under extreme provocation and gang violence that results in death’.

1st December, Telegraph, Royal College of Physicians & Marie Curie Palliative Care audit on Liverpool Care Pathway

A Royal College of Physicians’ study led by Marie Curie Palliative Care found that NHS doctors are failing to inform families that their terminally ill loved one has been placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway, and that the numbers have doubles since just two years ago. This happens in 6% of cases and is against health service guidance that states doctors should discuss this option with patients’ families. Chief Executive Sarah Wootton commented, saying that there is a need for further training and education on end-of-life communication, and that dying is not a failure of medical care, but dying badly is.

30th November, Daily Mail, National Institute of Healthcare and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Quality Standards paper published

The National Institute of Healthcare and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Quality Standards paper recommended that healthcare professionals provide 24/7 services in a ‘safe, effective and appropriate way at any time of day or night’. This includes access to GPs, one-to-one nursing care at home overnight and psychological support.

29th November, Daily Mirror, Tony Nicklinson’s new legal route announced

Tony Nicklinson’s lawyers opted for a new legal route. Instead of asking the DPP to clarify the law on mercy killing, they now plan to ask the High Court to clarify whether any ‘professional’ who helps him to die will face prosecution or disciplinary action, if the patient and courts consent in advance, based on the common law defence of necessity.

27th November, BBC Scotland’s Politics Show, Margo MacDonald MSP & Prof Sheila McLean on assisted dying & end-of-life care planning

Margo MacDonald talked about her latest bill, stating that ‘this is a rights issue’, which aims to empower patients in death, just as they are responsible for every other choice in life. Prof McLean was interviewed on Advance Decisions and their statutory force in Scotland. She also spoke of consistent public support for some form of assisted dying, but that healthcare professionals and faith-based organisations are reluctant and cautious.

[please see 00.59.30 in]

26th November, BBC Radio 4, Michelle Clements on accompanying her husband Tony to Dignitas earlier this year

Michelle Clements accompanied her husband Tony to Dignitas earlier this year. She explained in this interview that Tony made clear his wish for an assisted death after watching Sir Terry Pratchett’s documentary Choosing To Die in June. Michelle made note of the safeguards and procedures in place at Dignitas, and distinguishes its remit from Dignity in Dying’s campaign.

[please see 20:00 mins in]

26th November, Times, Prof Sir Chris Woodhead interview on assisted dying, his career & his plans for death

Prof Sir Chris Woodhead explained why he wants the right to die in this interview and why he believes he is being discriminated against because of his disability.

[accessible behind Times paywall]

24th November, International New Zealand, Following long & public court case Dr Sean Davidson is sentenced to 5-months’ home detention for helping his terminally ill mother to die

Dr Sean Davison was sentenced to five months’ home detention for pleading guilty to counseling and procuring his mother’s suicide. He asserted that he should not be considered or treated as a criminal, and criticised the law for its inhumanity and injustice.

13th November, International Canada, Expert end-of-life panel report calls for legalisation of assisted dying

A Canadian end-of-life expert panel’s long-awaited report (two years in the making) called on the federal Canadian government to decriminalize assisted suicide and in particular set up a permissive yet carefully regulated system of assisted death. Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition claimed the panel is biased because at least one of its members is a noted assisted dying advocate. This came as two assisted dying cases faced the British Columbia (BC) Supreme Court.

3rd November, BBC Radio Ulster, Sir Terry Pratchett video interview on assisted dying & his documentary

Patron Sir Terry Pratchett explained his preference for the term assisted dying, and talked about the feedback he received from the documentary Choosing To Die. Sir Terry stated that it is inevitable that the law will change, just as they did with abortion and equality rights laws.

28th October, BBC Radio York, discussion of Dr Nitschke’s visit and AD debate between Edward Turner and Mark Pickering (Christian Medical Fellowship)

Treasurer Edward Turner debated with Mark Pickering (Christian Medical Fellowship) on the breakfast show, arguing the case for assisted dying and reasserting Dignity in Dying’s position on Dr Nitschke’s upcoming visit to York. Edward spoke about his mother’s choice to have an assisted death and how her failed suicide attempt led him to accept her choice. Mark Pickering focused on the development of palliative care and wrongly asserted that Dr Anne Turner would not have qualified for an assisted death as she ‘would have lived another 7-10 years’. [please see 1:36:00 in]

27th October, BBC news, Video debate on assistance to die between Tony Nicklinson and Michael Wenham (Not Dead Yet UK)

BBC news featured a special video debate between Tony Nicklinson and Rev Michael Wenham, who has MND and opposes assisted dying. Both men raised interesting points, weighing up the issue of equal rights (Nicklinson) with familial love/care (Wenham).

27th October, Independent, Dr Philip Nitschke of Exit International announces UK workshops

Exit International founder Dr Philip Nitschke revealed plans to return to the UK and hold four suicide workshops in London, Eastbourne, York and Edinburgh. The Independent included information on how Dr Nitschke set up Exit International and his legal battles in Australia, where he was the first doctor to publicly give a patient a lethal injection (which resulted in the NSW government outlawing assistance to die). Dignity in Dying commented, saying that his actions are dangerous and irresponsible, and what is needed is an upfront safeguarded assisted dying law.

26th October, Herald Scotland, Margo MacDonald MSP proposes consultation document for new AD bill

Margo MacDonald MSP made first steps on her new bill to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland. She submitted a proposed consultation document to be called the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, which she described as a much simplified bill compared to her last in 2010.

26th October, BMJ, Letters from Care Not Killing’s David Ferguson and John Wiles rejecting EAPC study

David Ferguson from Care Not Killing (CNK) wrote in reply to news of EAPC report, stating that CoAD is both illegitimate and unbalanced, because some medical colleges and disability groups refused to submit evidence to it. He also said that the report admits difficulties in collecting data and analysis, and so ought to be ignored altogether. John Wiles, Chair of CNK, questioned the basis of the research and protested against what he saw as the EAPC’s [mis-]’interpretation’ of the report. He asserted that the main finding of the report is the benefit of continued development in palliative care., which should be prioritised before a ‘euthanasia’ law.

24th October, BMJ, European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC)’s Demos study find legalisation of assistance to die does not harm palliative care in countries where assistance to die is legal

A study commissioned by the Commission on Assisted Dying (CoAD) and conducted by Demos with the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC) found that palliative care is just as well developed in countries which have legalised assisted dying. The study compared six European countries: three where assistance to die is legal (the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland); and three where it is outlawed (Germany, France and Spain). It also found evidence of better advancement of palliative care in countries with legalised assistance to die. The report concluded that the argument that legalised assisted dying might harm or halt palliative care is ‘unwarranted’ and ‘is only expressed in commentaries rather than demonstrated by empirical evidence’.

23rd October, Daily Mail, Prof Sir Chris Woodhead’s full interview on his MND and considering an assisted death

The Mail published its full interview with Prof Sir Chris Woodhead, who revealed he had changed his mind on assisted dying after watching the documentary Choosing to Die. This article reaffirms his support for assisted dying for terminally ill adults in the UK and details the progressive symptoms of his MND.

20th October, BBC local radio, Edward Turner and Brian Pretty interviews on Dignitas and RCN guidelines

Treasurer Edward Turner was questioned about the BBC docudrama A Short Stay in Switzerland based on his family’s Dignitas experience and the lack of clarity in the prosecution policy for healthcare professionals. Patron Brian Pretty featured in a pre-recorded interview, where he was asked whether he remembered talking to nurses about helping Diane to die. Brian welcomes the ‘small step forward’ that the RCN is making by talking about the issue and listening to its members and to patients.

[see 2:16:00 in] [see 00:50:00 in]

20th October, Press Association, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) publishes new guidelines for nurses on assisted dying (widely covered)

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) released new guidelines for nurses on assisted dying. The new guidelines highlighted the lack of clarity in the prosecuting policy for healthcare professionals, who are often asked by patients for information on assisted dying and who are not accounted for in the DPP’s guidelines on compassionate assistance to die.

19th October, Nursing Standard, Sarah Wootton and Harriet Copperman letters against Baroness Cumberledge (5/10)

Chief Executive Sarah Wootton wrote that Baroness Cumberledge was wrong to present patient safety and patient choice as alternative goals, because an assisted dying law would offer both greater patient choice and better protect patients with a safeguarded upfront system of application. Retired palliative care nurse and Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) member, Harriet Copperman, said that Baroness Cumberledge implied that partial lobbyists’ voices (i.e. Dignity in Dying) should not be taken as seriously as others’, yet she herself is a campaigner for the non-neutral Living and Dying Well, which itself ‘published documents setting out its interpretation of the evidence to convince others’.

[subscription to Nursing Standard required]

17th October, Daily Mail, Sir Cliff Richard implies he has a suicide pact with sister on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour

The Mail reported on Sir Cliff Richard’s interview in BBC4 Woman’s Hour (audio no longer available), where Sir Cliff spoke about his mother’s dementia and implied that he had an agreement with his sister: “I said, look if this happens to me, I’ll do the same for you if you’ll do it for me, don’t let it go on too long?.

16th October, Observer, Lord Charlie Falconer interview on Commission on Assisted Dying

Chair of the CoAD Lord Charlie Falconer was interviewed on how he found hearing the evidence on Daniel James’s case particularly moving, and how it most clearly revealed to him the cruel state of the law. Lord Falconer also set out his arguments in support of assisted dying and made clear that Britain needs its own distinctive and appropriate law..

15th October, Telegraph, Sir Patrick Stewart interview targeting ‘selfish’ critics of assisted dying

In this exclusive interview with the Telegraph’s Tim Ross, Patron Sir Patrick Stewart spoke about religious opposition to assisted dying and questioned its influence in a supposedly secular state’s laws. He also spoke of his friend’s wife’s suicide and his own heart problems, which made him think again on the issue of assisted dying and come out publicly in support for it.

13th October, Guardian, Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on NHS care (widely reported)

On Thursday the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a report on NHS hospital care, following a spot check of 100 hospitals as recommended by the Health Ombudsman report earlier this year. Key observations:

  • most hospitals were failing their patients, especially older patients; nursing staff often treated patients in a way that ‘stripped them of their dignity and respect’
  • the NHS ‘puts paperwork over people’; the report recommended a refocus on caring for patients as individual human beings and not simply as numbers
  • Only 45 of the hospitals did not give any cause for concern
  • 20 (1 in 5) hospitals fell below legal minimum standards

12th October, Nursing Standard letters, response to Baroness Cumberledge

Gordon Mackley objected to Baroness Cumberledge’s distinction (05/10) between issues tackled by Parliament and by pressure groups, saying that it is an issue of pure semantics – would Parliament have legislated for women’s rights without pressure groups’ lobbying? He also addressed her demand for hard evidence, and wrote that the debate on assisted dying cannot provide conclusive evidence of proof either way; rather, it can only ascertain causal links by analysing the appropriate data, and from there arrive at logical conclusions.

[subscription to Nursing Standard required]

11th October, Times, Prof Ray Tallis’s opinion piece – ‘The scandals of doctors against assisted dying’

Prof Ray Tallis, Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD), addressed the official positions of opposition to assisted dying of Britain’s leading medical colleges. He wrote that the British Medical Association (BMA), Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have ‘no right to oppose something the public clearly supports’, arguing that physician & GP bodies should switch their positions to neutral, like the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), because ‘it is nothing short of paternalism to extend the medical profession’s authority to matters that are for society as a whole to decide’.

[accessible behind the Times paywall]

10th October, Guardian, Beth Hale’s opinion piece on assisted dying & her mother’s death (Ann McPherson)

Beth Hale, daughter of assisted dying campaigner Dr Ann McPherson, wrote a moving piece on her mother’s terminal illness and her tireless campaigning to legalise the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill patients; a choice that was sadly denied to her at the end of her life. She concluded saying that ‘society should be thoroughly ashamed of itself if it stands by and continues to allow dying people to suffer in this way’.

5th October, Nursing Standard letters, Baroness Cumberledge questions the evidence on assisted dying

Baroness Julia Cumberledge, a board member of Living and Dying Well, stated that ‘it is for parliament, not pressure groups, to decide whether the law [on assisted dying] should be changed’. She wrote that the experience of Oregon and Washington provides evidence against legislating for assisted dying in the UK: the ‘rising death toll’, ‘depressed patients being supplied with legal drugs without psychological assessment’, and ‘no systems for ensuring that supplied drugs are swallowed knowingly and willingly’.

[subscription to Nursing Standard required]

1st October, Daily Mail, Stuart Mungall given 12-month suspended sentence for manslaughter of terminally ill wife

Stuart Mungall was given a 12 month suspended sentence on the charge of manslaughter for helping his terminally ill wife Joan to die last autumn. The Mail’s coverage detailed Mr Mungall’s personal life, how he met his wife, and their close friendship with Jane Asher (ex-girlfriend of Sir Paul McCartney and President of Parkinson’s UK).

30th September, Telegraph, Prof Sir Chris Woodhead considers going to Dignitas after watching Choosing to Die

Former head of Ofsted Professor Sir Chris Woodhead, diagnosed with MND in 2006, said that there are no persuasive arguments against assisted dying and that Sir Terry Pratchett’s documentary Choosing to Die changed his mind about whether he would go to Dignitas. He said the documentary was dignified and that an assisted death did not look like ‘a bad way to go’.

7th September, Daily Mail, Joy Tomkins & Compassion in Dying Advance Decisions

Dignity in Dying supporter Joy Tomkins spoke of her husband’s end-of-life experience (his wishes were not respected) and explained how that inspired her to get a DNR tattoo. Compassion in Dying’s Press and Campaigns Manager Jo Cartwright commented with information on Advance Decisions, DNR orders and other ways to alert medical teams so your wishes are carried out.

6th September, Times, Opinion piece by Keir Starmer DPP defending guidelines

Keir Starmer defended his guidelines and the results of each case he personally oversaw on assisted suicide. He stated that the guidelines do not, and could not, replace the law: assisted suicide remains a criminal offence. He reminded everyone that the CPS did not create guidelines on its own initiative, it was ordered to do so by the Lords. He distinguished between assisted suicide and mercy killing, which falls under murder or manslaughter (current guidelines not clear).

[accessible behind the Times paywall]

5th September, Times, Front page on CPS statistics on assisted suicide cases referred

More on the release of assisted suicide cases referred to the CPS, with detail of the number of cases and Keir Starmer’s admission that the number of referrals has increased since Debbie Purdy’s case in 2009, suggesting more assistors coming forward because the guidelines give some assurance that they will not be prosecuted.

2nd September, Telegraph, CPS statistic on assisted suicide cases published & Keir Starmer interview

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published statistics on the cases of assisted suicide referred to them in 2010-2011. In the year April 2010-2011 18 cases were referred: 2 are still under review, 1 has been withdrawn and 13 led to no further action. The Telegraph had an exclusive interview with Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer. He said that the issue of assisted dying for terminally ill adults should be resolved in Parliament.

2nd September, Telegraph, Supportive letters from Sir Terence English & Dr Kailash Chand

Dr Chand suggested that doctors reassess their duties because the law at present is untenable – it leaves doctors, patients and loved ones unprotected and the fear of prosecution hangs over all concerned. Dignity in Dying Patron Sir Terence clarifies the distinctions between assisted dying for terminally ill people; assisted suicide for non-terminally ill people; and voluntary euthanasia. He restated that Dignity in Dying only campaigns for the first.

28th August, TV’s 4Thought, Sophie Pandit ‘Is suicide selfish?’

Dignity in Dying Patron Sophie Pandit appeared on 4Thought explaining why she believes that her mother’s decision to choose a good death over a bad one was not selfish. She described the deaths of both of her parents from similar degenerative diseases, and set out why she would like to see assisted dying legalised in the UK.

28th August, Telegraph, DoH expert Martin Green speaks out in support for assisted dying

Department of Health dementia expert Martin Green, also CEO of English Community Care Association, spoke out in support of assisted dying, saying that choice and autonomy should extend to how patients want to die. He argued on the basis of mental competency across one’s health choices and the disability discrimination laws (that do not hold when it comes to suicide). Mr Green suggested a referendum or free vote in Parliament to settle the issue for the next 60 years.

24th August, Guardian, interview with Chris Larner on new play An Instinct For Kindness

Chris Larner wrote and performed in a one-man play about his Dignitas experience ‘An Instinct For Kindness’, which toured the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Pleasance Dome). The play was very well received and was awarded a Fringe First. Chris will also be taking the play to the Southbank Centre’s Festival For the Living in January 2012.

24th August, Yours Magazine, Heather Pratten interview – ‘Out of love I helped me son to die’

In this interview with Yours magazine, Dignity in Dying Patron Heather Pratten shared her experiences of seeing her husband and two sons die from Huntington’s Disease, and their individual responses and choices at the end of their lives. Heather urged law-makers to legalise assisted dying so that “no mother is ever faced with the same heartbreaking task again?.

[no link available]

23rd August, Guardian, Demos report The Truth About Suicide published (wide coverage inc BBC Radio 4 et al)

The think-tank Demos released a report The Truth About Suicide, the first of its kind to attempt to estimate the scale of suicides linked with terminal and chronic illnesses. Researchers gathered the data from 147 Primary Care Trusts and from serving and recently retired coroners. Based on the 2009 suicide rates, the report found that, of the 4,390 people who died by suicide, an estimated 400 people (10%) had a chronic or terminal illnesses (but just 2% were cancer patients). Louise Bazalgette, author of the report, said that the government needs to take account of the scale of the problem and identify terminally ill patients as an ‘at-risk’ category in its suicide guidelines and policies.

11th August, Daily Mail, National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) & Dying Matters’ ‘No dress rehearsals’ campaign

The National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) and Dying Matters Coalition ran a campaign No Dress Rehearsals, which called for a ‘more open discussion on death and dying’. Their report found that 7 out of 10 people would like to die at home but half will likely die in hospital. The report also explored poor end-of-life care treatment and care.

4th August, Daily Express, New Patrons Kim Cattrall, Hugh Grant & Susan Hampshire OBE

Dignity in Dying announced new Patrons actors Kim Cattrall, Hugh Grant and Susan Hampshire OBE, receiving media interest particularly with Kim Cattrall, who played a paralysed sculptor in Whose Life Is It Anyway? in 2005.

2nd August, Guardian, 50th Anniversary 1961 Suicide Act (wide coverage)

On the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Suicide Act, Chief Executive Sarah Wootton argued that it is no substitute for an updated assisted dying law, despite the Director of Public Prosecutions’ guidelines. A poll commissioned by Dignity in Dying found that 3/4 of people support a change in the law to allow terminally ill patients the choice of an assisted death, but that support dramatically drops to 1/3 for assisted suicide of non-terminally-ill patients.

19th July, TV’s Wright Stuff, Should doctors allow a woman on life support who is ‘minimally conscious’ to die?

Panel discussion of court case of minimally conscious woman: most of the panel was in support, arguing that power of decision-making should lie with the family rather than with doctors. Matthew Wright said that ‘Living Wills are important should you lose capacity to communicate’ and urged the audience to record their end-of-life wishes.

19th July, Times, M court case and Tony Nicklinson interview

Court case appeal to withdraw treatment from a minimally conscious brain-damaged woman (M) by her family members despite doctors believing she might one day be able to communicate. Times 2 feature with Tony Nicklinson, who has Locked-In syndrome and is fighting a case for right-to-die. The piece clarifies that the assisted dying lobby only campaigns for patients with terminal illnesses.

[accessible behind Times paywall]

18th July, Telegraph, Recommendations patient charter & GPs to keep list of terminally ill patients

Guidelines produced by the National Council for Palliative Care and the National End of Life Care Programme, which include a patient charter to ensure that the wishes of terminally ill patients are recorded and respected. The report also recommends that doctors keep lists of patients expected to die within a year and that each patient receive ‘a holistic assessment of their care and support needs, which includes their carers’ needs assessment where appropriate’.

9th July, Guardian, Dignity in Dying Patron Nell Dunn – ‘Is a dignified death at home too much to ask for?’

Nell Dunn, playwright and author, was featured in an exclusive interview on her experience caring for her husband Dan Oestreicher, who had terminal cancer. Nell wrote a play Home Death, which follows seven stories of death and dying, one of which is of close friend George Melly.

6th July, BMJ, Prof Joe Collier & Jan Bernheim on evidence-based debate

Prof Collier wrote to welcome the recent exploration of assisted dying in the media and praised the BMJ and BBC for its balanced coverage. A letter from Prof Jan Bernheim cited empirical evidence from the Benelux countries that shows that palliative care can improve and vulnerable people are better protected when assisted dying is legalised.

5th July, Evening Standard, 7 MPs table EDM applauding BMA motion condemning BBC ‘bias’ & CoAD

On 4th July seven MPs tabled an EDM applauding last week’s BMA motion proposed by Dr Mark Pickering, which condemned the BBC and the Commission on Assisted Dying (CoAD) as biased and ‘cheerleading’ for assisted dying.

4th July, Telegraph, publication of Dilnot review into end-of-life care

Andrew Dilnot’s report on social care costs and funding recommends a cap on care costs at £35,000, which would provide peace of mind in an era of longer life-expectancy. Mr Dilnot describes this as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime chance’ to fix our broken system, which is widely considered a lottery, according to postcode, age and diagnosis.

1st July, Financial Times, Interview with Lord Joel Joffe on campaigning work

An exclusive interview with Lord Joel Joffe praised his career as a human rights champion and founder of British assurance group Allied Dunbar. Lord Joffe said that the most useful thing he has done in the House of Lords is his private members’ bills on assisted dying, concluding that the law will change in time.

1st July, BBC news, publication of Palliative Care Funding Review

The Palliative Care Funding Review found vast disparities in funding across PCTs in England, with money spent on specialist palliative care services ranging from £21m to £200,000. The report also highlighted the disparity between people’s wishes and the reality of dying in hospital rather than at home. Chief Executive of Marie Curie, Thomas Hughes-Hallett, called for a new system of tariffs to incentivise high quality care across the country.

24th June, ITV IoM, CEO Sarah Wootton on the Isle of Man

Chief Executive Sarah Wootton explained her visit to the Isle of Man and says that there is an appetite for change around the world. Dignity in Dying is prepared to support a potential bill on the Isle of Man.

22nd June, BMJ, Dr Des Spence questions ‘Are doctors in denial?’

Dr Des Spence noted that there is a third pragmatic ‘middle way’ in the debate on assisted dying, which accepts that assisted dying is currently practiced in the UK, relatively openly with the administration of pain relieving drugs and justified by the principle of the doctrine of double effect. He called on British doctors to ‘be honest and accept the principle of assisted dying’ by engaging in the debate and not deferring the issue to politicians and lawyers.

18th June, Guardian, Helen Cowie on son’s assisted suicide

Helen Cowie called up BBC Radio Scotland and admitted to helping her son to die in Switzerland, which led to a police investigation. She accompanied her son Robert to Dignitas with his three brothers and his best friend.

18th June, Independent, Sir Terry Pratchett’s ‘A week in the death’

Sir Terry Pratchett reflected on his week since the screening of Choosing to Die. He defended the documentary’s screening: it ‘was not made to encourage, dismay or condone, it was made to see’.

17th June, Sun, Chris Larner interview on ex-wife Allyson’s assisted suicide

Actor Chris Larner (best remembered as Clingfilm in 90s drama London’s Burning) spoke out in support of assisted dying and revealed how he accompanied his ex-wife Allyson to the Dignitas clinic in 2010. In this exclusive interview, Chris praised Sir Terry for his sensitive handling of the issue in Choosing to Die.

14th June, Telegraph, John Bray on son Simon’s assisted suicide

John Bray, whose son Simon died on 13th June after a long battle with bowel, liver and lung cancer, welcomed the debate sparked by the Choosing to Die documentary and demanded that people be given the right to end their life in Britain. In this interview he spoke of Simon’s death, and how opponents of assisted dying don’t understand what most terminally ill people endure.

14th June, Daily Mail, Professor Klim McPherson on Ann

In this personal and moving account, Ann’s husband Prof Klim McPherson describes how Ann was forced to live in unbearable discomfort in her last few days, and how this validated what she spent the last few years campaigning for.

13th June, TV BBC2 Newsnight Special, Assisted suicide

With Debbie Purdy, David Aaronovitch, Dignitas doctor Erica Preisig, disability rights campaigner Liz Carr, the Bishop of Exeter and Diana Rose QC. Prerecord interview with Sir Terry, who stated how his experience consolidated his belief that the UK urgently needs an assisted dying law.

13th June, TV BBC2, Sir Terry Pratchett’s documentary Choosing to Die

Sir Terry Pratchett follows Peter Smedley to Switzerland in the first BBC programme to film an assisted death. Sir Terry also met with Andrew Colgan, who had MS, and Mick, who chose to stay in hospice care.

7th June, Radio Times, Choosing to Die documentary preview – ‘Five minutes of television that will change our lives’

Exclusive interview with Sir Terry Pratchett on his upcoming documentary, where he spoke of the close bond he formed with Peter and detailed the process at Dignitas. The Radio Times also interviewed Yvonne Colgan, whose son Andrew went to Dignitas last year (also followed in Sir Terry’s documentary). The BBC’s Commissioning Editor for Documentaries Charlotte Moore also submitted an opinion piece, defending the decision of the BBC to air the programme and to film the death of Peter by sodium pentobarbital.

[no link available]

4th June, Guardian, Dr Jack Kevorkian dies aged 83

Dr Jack Kevorkian, well-known for assisting the deaths of 130 patients in the US in the 1990s, died in hospital on 3rd June after a prolonged battle with pneumonia and ongoing kidney problems. His death has sparked debate in the US on assistance to die and this article pays its respects to the man and his influence on US society broadly.

3rd June, BBC news, Dignity in Dying Patron Miriam Karlin dies aged 85

Dignity in Dying Patron Miriam Karlin, best known for her role in the TV sitcom The Rag Trade, died in hospital after a long battle with cancer. She was also a committed trade unionist and supporter of humanitarian causes.

1st June, BBC news, Royal College of Nursing and GPs charter on end-of-life care

A patient charter, created by the Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of General Practitioners, issued guidelines for GPs to ask and record dying patients’ wishes for end-of-life treatment and care. This information will potentially be stored in a new NHS database, readily accessible to medical staff, loved ones and A&E teams.

31st May, Guardian, Dr Ann McPherson dies aged 65

Dignity in Dying Patron and founder of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) Dr Ann McPherson died in her home in Oxfordshire on 28th May. Ann was one of the best-known GPs in Britain and was also medical director of HealthTalkOnline, where she worked with the actor Hugh Grant (a Patron of HealthTalkOnline).

30th May, Times, Janet Grieves interview on Douglas Sinclair assisted suicide

Janet Grieves accompanied her friend Douglas Sinclair to Dignitas and was acquitted of charges earlier in the month. In this interview she says she wouldn’t do it again because of the year-long investigation that followed. The article focuses on the nature and impact of the criminal proceedings after someone’s assisted death, despite the DPP’s guidelines on compassionate assistance.

[accessible behind Times paywall]

27th May, Independent, Daniel James assisted suicide and criminal police investigation

The case of Daniel James, who died in Dignitas in 2008, with emphasis on the distressing impact of the following police investigation. The system of investigation in assisted suicide cases reveals the ‘inhumanity of a law that placed them [Mark and Julie James] as suspects in a serious crime, subjected them to harrowing investigation and compounded their grief?’

19th May, British Medical Journal Awards 2011, Dr Ann McPherson wins Communicator of the Year

Dignity in Dying Patron, Dr Ann McPherson won Communicator of the Year at the BMJ awards in Oxford – a clearly well-deserved recognition for her success in setting up Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD)

19th May, Launch of Compassion in Dying’s End-Of-Life Rights Information Line

The Information Line (0800 999 2434) launch coincides with the results of a YouGov poll, commissioned by Compassion in Dying, which asked people what they want for their end of lives and whether they had made provisions for these in legal documents, such as Advance Decisions or in Lasting Powers of Attorney.


  • six out of ten adults (60%) would only want comfort care at the end of their lives, although just 3% had made their treatment wishes clear in an Advance Decision
  • Fewer than two in ten people (14%) would want limited medical intervention – with less than one in ten (8%) people wanting full medical intervention at the end-of-life.
  • The majority (53%) also wrongly believed that they had the legal right to make treatment decisions on behalf of their loved ones, if their loved ones lost the ability to communicate their wishes.

17th May, Herald Scotland, Margo MacDonald MSP renews campaign for assisted suicide

Commenting on the Swiss referenda results Margo MacDonald MSP said that, because ‘the Swiss have open minds and big hearts, politicians in the UK are dodging the dilemma’. Her renewed campaign in Scotland will ‘simplify’ the conditions set out in her last Bill, by focusing on the needs and rights of the patient.

16th May, Guardian, Dying Matters survey finds 15% want to live forever (Awareness Week)

A ComRes opinion poll conducted by the Dying Matters Coalition found that more young people than older people want to live forever and that there is a historical reluctance to talk about death and about preparations for death, such as funeral planning and wills. Chief Executive Eve Richardson calls for better end of life care planning by encouraging discussion between patients, their families and doctors.

15th May, BBC news, Swiss votes to keep assisted suicide

Swiss residents in the canton of Zurich voted overwhelmingly against the proposals to ban assisted suicide (85%) and ‘suicide tourism’ (78%). Reactions to and analysis of the results focus largely on two points: 1) that concerns about assisted suicide carry less weight with Swiss voters than their conviction that the right to die is universal; and 2) that concerns about ‘suicide tourism’ were overestimated (from opinion polls).

11th May, Diane Pretty 9th anniversary of her death

Dignity in Dying released a video on its YouTube page of Brian Pretty reflecting on the campaign’s progress and speaking of Diane’s court cases. We also issued a press release to local newspapers.

4th May, Luxembourg 2010 figures

Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide was legalised in Luxembourg in March 2009. The National Commission for Control and Assessment present a report every two years. The first report was published in April 2011 and covers 2009/2010.


  • In total, five people (3 women, 2 men) died under this law.
  • All were aged over 60.
  • Three died in hospital and two in their home.
  • Cancer was the medical diagnosis in all cases.
  • No assisted suicides were reported.
  • In each case the procedure followed by the doctor was correctly observed as set out by the law.
[no link available]

20th April, British Medical Journal (BMJ) ‘Head to Head’ with Prof Ray Tallis

Prof Ray Tallis, who opposed Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying Bill in 2004, explains why the evidence from jurisdictions that have legalised assistance to die changed his opinion on the issue, and he sets out arguments in support of assisted dying in the UK.

[BMJ subscription members only]

18th April, Telegraph, New Patron Chris Broad interview

Interview with Dignity in Dying Patron Chris Broad, who voiced his support for assisted dying following his terminally ill wife Miche’s suicide last year. He expressed regret that he could not be with her when she died because she feared implicating him in her suicide.

17th April, Sunday Times, New Patron Sir Patrick Stewart interview

Exclusive interview with Dignity in Dying Patron Sir Patrick Stewart where he explains, for the first time publicly, his views on assisted dying and personal experience of losing a friend. [link not available, see Press Association release]

13th April, Daily Mirror, Actress Angela Scoular cancer suicide

Actress Angela Scoular, wife of Carry On actor Leslie Phillips, had terminal bowel cancer and was suspected of committing suicide by drinking household bleach on 11th April.

8th April, Liverpool Echo, Win Crew 8 years on

Dignity in Dying spokesperson Win Crew was interviewed on her thoughts on assisted dying 8 years after she accompanied her husband Reg to Switzerland. Reg Crew was the first Briton to publicly travel abroad for an assisted death.

3rd April, Press Association, Nan Maitland assisted suicide

Right-to-die campaigner and founder of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS) ended her life in Switzerland on 1st March, raising the question of whether non-terminally ill people should have the right to die.

25th March, BMJ, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) gives evidence to Commission on Assisted Dying (CoAD)

HPAD representatives Dr Ann McPherson, Prof Ray Tallis and Joe Collier gave evidence to CoAD, debunking the view that all healthcare professionals oppose assisted dying.

24th March, Journal of Palliative Medicine, US report finds higher quality ratings for physician-assisted deaths

This US research report surveyed families’ experiences of loved ones’ deaths, using a retrospective system of rating. Researchers found that those receiving PAD prescriptions had higher quality ratings on items related to preparedness for death (e.g. saying goodbye to loved ones, or having the possession of a means to death if required – i.e. general peace of mind) and measuring symptom control (over surroundings, control of bladder/bowels).

24th March, Telegraph, Europe-wide report finds quality of life more important than length of time left

A report by PRISMA, a European Commission-funded project on palliative care, consisting of 9,000 interviews from people who had either known someone with a terminal illness, supported a love one in their end-of-life care, or were themselves terminally ill, found that most people (71%) would want to improve the quality of their life if terminally ill, rather than lengthen it (4%).

23rd March, Age and Ageing Journal, Study of geriatricians’ views on Advance Decisions & their use in England

Qualitative study investigates why Advance Decisions are not widely used and explains the disparity between doctors’ support for the concept of Advance Decisions, and their lack of use/impact on decision-making in practice.

11th March, Washington 2010 figures on Death with Dignity Act

Last year’s figures show that the practice of aid in dying in Washington (legal since March 2009) has been infrequent, and comforts many more patients that just those who use it: 51 of the 87 participants who received medication actually used it. Of the 51 people who died using the prescription 90% were at home and 84% were enrolled in hospice care at the time they died.

21st February, Mirror, DiD release new Patron list – ‘Stars back assisted dying campaign’

Dignity in Dying’s full list of patrons was released, including new patrons Sir Patrick Stewart, Chris Broad and Simon Weston. The press release included their reasons for supporting the campaign to legalise assisted dying, and their thoughts on individual choice and dying in general. Ian McEwan’s statement in particular was used

12th February, Telegraph, Ian McEwan interview on assisted dying support

Booker Prize-winning author and DiD Patron Ian McEwan argued persuasively for the right to die, explaining his close friendship with Dr Ann McPherson and his own experiences with the death of his mother and first love.

12th February, Telegraph, Dr Ann McPherson – ‘the terminally ill GP who inspired Ian McEwan’

27th January, Oregon 2010 figures on Death with Dignity Act

The US state of Oregon published its annual report on physician-assisted suicide (PAS), which has been legal for terminally ill mentally competent adults since the 2005 Death with Dignity Act. Dignity in Dying comment.

24th January, Independent, Dr Ann McPherson

Dignity in Dying Patron Dr Ann McPherson argued for a change in the law on assisted dying from a medical and personal perspective. Her piece debunked the view that all doctors oppose the practice of assisted death and confirmed this medical support through Ann’s achievements in forming the Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.