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Terminally ill Briton dies at Dignitas today amid ever-changing Covid rules, as assisted dying raised in Commons debate

  • Comes as quarantine rules for British travellers to Switzerland cause panic and disarray, potentially jeopardising plans for assisted death
  • Andrew Mitchell MP, co-chair of cross-party group on assisted dying, calls for clear process of reform for England and Wales as debate progresses in Scotland, Jersey and Republic of Ireland

A terminally ill British man has today (Wednesday 8th December 2021) been assisted to die at Dignitas in Switzerland at his request, after Swiss Covid-19 quarantine rules risked jeopardising his plans. Former businessman David Peace, 72, from London, had terminal motor neurone disease and in his final months had called publicly for a change in the law on assisted dying in the UK. Mr Peace’s case was raised in the Commons today in an adjournment debate held this evening by the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of life.

Mr Peace’s carer, who accompanied him and wished to remain anonymous, confirmed today that Mr Peace had died “quickly and peacefully at 11.20am this morning, as David wished. We were able to say goodbye and we were smiling to the end.” But in a statement Mr Peace wrote last week, he revealed that his final days had been marred by panic and anxiety after Swiss quarantine measures for British travellers were announced and then revoked within the space of a few days.

Last week, David said:

“I have terminal motor neurone disease, a fatal illness for which there is no treatment or cure. It has robbed me of my ability to speak, swallow, balance and walk…I simply want the right to die on my own terms…

“My only option has been to plan an assisted death at Dignitas in Switzerland, which I have done in meticulous detail over the past few months… this has given me comfort and peace of mind… [despite] knowing that travel restrictions or lockdowns could jeopardise my plans.”

On average 50 Brits travel to Switzerland for an assisted death every year, a process that can take months to arrange, costs £10,000 on average, requires that individuals retain the physical strength to make the journey, and comes with a risk of prosecution for anyone accompanying or assisting them.

David continued:

“…with my final appointment set for next week, new Swiss quarantine rules for British visitors mean my fears have materialised. I cannot possibly isolate there for 10 days as required – not only is there insufficient time before my appointment, but the thought of spending my final days in an anonymous hotel room is unconscionable.

“I have been forced to spend my last reserves of time and energy trying to secure a waiver from the Swiss authorities… Fortunately, I was able to have my request expedited…The relief I feel cannot be overstated. I am enormously grateful, but very sadly, the close friends I had hoped would also accompany me are no longer able to [even after quarantine rules were overturned]…

“The emotional and logistical nightmare I have endured over the past few days would have been avoided entirely under the Assisted Dying Bill, which would have enabled me to go peacefully and with dignity in my own home at a time of my choosing. The pandemic has surely proven beyond doubt that Dignitas is not a solution to our outdated law. We urgently need this option here, in this country.”

The Assisted Dying Bill, proposed by crossbench peer and chair of Dignity in Dying, Baroness Meacher, passed unopposed at Second Reading in the House of Lords on 22 October 2021. It would legalise assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final months of life alongside existing end-of-life care options, a change supported by 84% of the British public.

Andrew Mitchell MP raised Mr Peace’s case in the Commons today in an adjournment debate held late this evening, Wednesday 8th December 2021. It comes just over a year after Mr Mitchell asked an Urgent Question to the former Health Secretary, asking for clarification as to whether terminally ill Britons would be exempt from UK lockdown restrictions if travelling to Switzerland for an assisted death.

Mr Mitchell said today:

“The already cruel situation, where British citizens can have the death they want only if they travel to another country, becomes yet more unacceptable when even this most exceptional option can be withdrawn with such short notice. That is not to blame Switzerland: it is the fault of our own failure as a country to provide that option at home, preferring to outsource our compassion to another country.”

Mr Mitchell also paid tribute to Ray Illingworth, former England cricket captain, who recently revealed his terminal cancer diagnosis and wish for an assisted death, after witnessing his wife die of cancer this year:

“Ray has represented his country and is now asking his country to help him have the choice to die on his own terms.”

Mr Mitchell raised the clear process for reform of assisted dying laws in Scotland, where a public consultation on a bill proposal is underway, with draft legislation and examination by select committees due next year; in Jersey, where its States Assembly last month voted to support assisted dying in principle following recommendations from a citizens’ jury, with legislation to be drafted next year for debate in 2023; and in the Republic of Ireland, where a Special Oireachtas committee has been tasked with examining assisted dying over nine months from the New Year.

Mr Mitchell said:

“Here, in this House, we lack anything like such a comprehensive system. Our system for considering private members’ legislation is entirely inadequate when debating such an important issue. The Government has rightly determined that it should be neutral on the principle of assisted dying, but I invite my honourable friend the Minister to recognise that neutrality on the legislative process, rather than on the principle, has the effect of siding with the status quo. A refusal to facilitate the debate is a de facto opposition to law change.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“Our thoughts are with David and his loved ones. We commend them for speaking up at such a difficult time to expose the shocking cruelty of the UK’s laws on assisted dying, compounded even further by the pandemic.

“For almost two years it has made an already fraught process even more so for dying Britons, and for some it has ruled out the Dignitas option entirely, condemning them to suffer against their wishes at home or to take matters into their own hands, as hundreds do every year. We clearly can no longer outsource death to Switzerland.

“Across the UK and Ireland there are clear paths to reform our outdated laws, but not for England and Wales. The Assisted Dying Bill in the Lords needs the Government to commit time to ensure it can be properly debated, otherwise it cannot progress. Without it, English and Welsh residents will continue to suffer as their neighbours take strides towards greater end-of-life choice. Urgent action is necessary to begin to right the many wrongs of our broken status quo on assisted dying, right across the UK and Ireland.”


David Peace’s loved ones request privacy at this time. For photos of David or interviews with Dignity in Dying, please contact Molly Pike, Media & Campaigns Officer on 07929731181 or email