My Time to Die

LBC’s Nick Ferrari interviewed Alzheimer’s sufferer Alex Pandolfo about his plans to end his life in Switzerland. The moving video is available on line. Nick gently probes Alex’s motivation for wanting to end his life, and discusses how he will decide when the time is right for him.

Alex is clear:

I don’t want to die. I want to live with an acceptable quality of life to me for as long as I possibly can.

He goes on to explain very clearly where the limits of an acceptable quality of life are for him:

I don’t want to go into an old folks home. Its not for me. I don’t want people there 24hrs a day doing everything for me. It’s not the kind of quality of life that I want.

MDMD has been following Alex’s story since May 2017, and interviewed him in February 2018. His views have remained very consistent. Since coming to terms with his diagnosis, Alex has spent his time campaigning strongly for a change in the law. He told Nick Ferrari that he was planning to go to Switzerland for a medically assisted death “later this year”. Nick asked if he could accompany him, as Alex had not asked anyone else. Alex warmly accepted Nick’s suggestion.

News coverage of Alex’s case is important to our campaign for the following reasons, not all of which were covered by the interview:

  • Alex suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. This is a progressive terminal illness. Death may not be for many years after diagnosis. In the final few years a sufferer will not have the mental capacity necessary to make a life-ending decision.
  • Some jurisdictions, such as Oregon USA, which have introduced assisted dying legislation, have limited it to those who have a life expectancy of 6 months or less. This form of legislation does not help people like Alex as they will not have sufficient mental capacity by that time. Many will have suffered far more than they would wish by that stage.
  • The last attempt in the UK parliament to change the law on assisting suicide was restricted in this way. MDMD and the other campaign organisations which form the Assisted Dying Coalition believe this is too limited.  MDMD believes that having mental capacity to make a life-ending decision at the time of an assisted death is a very important safeguard.
  • Dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) is the cause of death for 1 in 8 of all deaths in England and Wales, a statistic that increases to almost 1 in 4 for women over 80. The Office of National Statistics cites this as the most common cause of death. As healthier lifestyles and medical advances increase life expectancy, the number of people who live long enough to suffer from dementia is increasing, even if it is not their eventual cause of death.
  • Recent research by NatCen, commissioned by MDMD, revealed that 88% of people surveyed think medically assisted dying is acceptable in at least some cases for people like Alex who request it. Only 12% considered it “never acceptable”. This aspect of the research was designed to assess the level of public support for people like Alex, compared to other more restrictive forms of assisted dying. The public are with Alex. Those responsible for public policy who believe in patient-centred care need to listen to Alex and those who support him.

MDMD is most grateful to Alex for his continuing excellent campaign work and his openness in publicising his story and his point of view – a view that is shared by all MDMD supporters.