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. It is rampaging through my body, paralysing my muscles. Nothing will stop it. Palliative care cannot give me the death I want, I simply want the right to die on my own terms.
It’s important to note that I am not suicidal. I’ve never been depressed and I don’t have a death wish. Reluctantly, I’m being propelled to bring forward my death by the relentless attacks on my body, with no hope of relief or cure, and no legal or dignified remedy in Britain other than continual suffering with more and more pills, opiates and sedation, tubes into the throat and other interventions.
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. Though stressful and hugely expensive, this has given me comfort and peace of mind. Covid-19 measures have been a real concern throughout this year, knowing that travel restrictions or lockdowns could jeopardise my plans.
The pandemic has surely proven beyond doubt that Dignitas is not a solution to our outdated law.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.
And now, 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. The thought that it might not be granted and that I could be denied my final wish has been a source of great worry.
The alternatives do not bear thinking about. I could be condemned to the very death I am trying to avoid, dying by suffocation or choking, or becoming completely locked-in my own body but with my mind perfectly intact. I could legally starve myself to death, an option many are forced to take, but that is a terrible way to go. I do not know how to take my life successfully and painlessly so that route is closed.
Fortunately, I was able to have my request expedited due to the urgency of my case and my carer and I have been granted a quarantine waiver from the Swiss authorities. 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 the quarantine rules for British travellers were overturned]. I will have to comply with all other Covid-19 measures, including testing, traveling directly from the airport to my hotel and leaving only to attend my appointment with Dignitas.
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.