Dignitas issued a hard-hitting press release this week “Ignorance, irresponsibility and hypocrisy – How a majority of UK politicians violate human rights and create suffering and costs“. Here’s an extract:
Just over a week ago, once again an individual from the UK has travelled to DIGNITAS – To live with dignity – To die with dignity, for having access to the human freedom and right to decide on time and manner of his own end of suffering and life, as it has been basically acknowledged by the European Court of Human Rights in 2011. This freedom and right has been violated by the UK once again – for the 394th (!) time now.
A majority of UK politicians ignore that these journeys cause a lot of suffering for the individual and his family and friends. Not only is it very hard for someone already in a deplorable health situation to travel abroad. It all has to take place in secret and with fear, as it is shadowed by an absurd law that threatens to criminalise loved ones who give their compassion and care – something which every suffering individual deserves.
The press release was picked up by the Daily Mirror in an article titled ‘Dignitas blasts “ignorant and irresponsible” MPs for refusing to back change to assisted death laws in UK‘. The Mirror article refers to the case of James Howley who accompanied his partner to Dignitas. On return he was investigated by the police for six months before charges were dropped. MDMD are aware of other similar cases.
MDMD fully agree with Dignitas that the UK law on assisted suicide is not working and needs to be changed to allow medically assisted dying in the UK, with similar safeguards to those which apply at Dignitas. In Switzerland medically assisted suicide is possible for a person who requests it provided that they are mentally competent and have a medical condition which is incurable and which causes unacceptable suffering. It is not restricted to those who are “terminally ill” in the sense of having a life expectancy of six months or less, which means that it is available to those with the early stages of dementia provided that they still retain mental capacity. MDMD feel this is particularly important now that dementia is recognised as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and many more people die with it rather than of it.
The current law causes far too much suffering, both for the dying person and their family. Many people would agree with Helen Johnson, (James Howley’s partner who ended her life in Switzerland), when she said ‘I’m not frightened of dying, but I am frightened about the way I die’. The option of a medically assisted death in the UK, for those that want it, would greatly reduce that understandable fear, which even the best palliative care cannot allay. This would enable far more people to have a “good death” whether or not they actually choose medical assistance to die as their end-of-life situation unfolds.