Mother’s final choice compels campaigner
Peter Squires and his brother Andrew travelled to Switzerland with their mother, 67-year-old mother Glenys, last March where she underwent an assisted death at the Dignitas organisation.
She was suffering from the advanced stages of the progressive neurological disorder Huntington’s disease and had already lost much of her quality of living when she made the decision to end her life
Mr Squires said: “She knew that the symptoms of her illness would worsen and she also knew that she would lose her independence.
“That was the most important thing that she wanted to retain and she wanted control over the manner and timing of her death. She saw that as her right, she did not want to suffer any more against her wishes.
“But what happened as a result of the current legal situation in this country is that mum had to travel to Switzerland and in reality she ended her life earlier than was necessary because she felt she needed to go while she was still able to make the journey.”
Current UK laws prohibits medical assistance to help somebody to die with the punishment being a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
But Mr Squires said that ‘amateur compassionate assistance’ - accompanying somebody abroad who has chosen to die for example - has effectively been decriminalised and therefore does not provide significant protection against potential abuses of the law or against relatives facing prosecution after the death.
Mr Squires has joined the campaign for Dignity in Dying, which is trying to bring about a change in the legislation.
He said: “I felt compelled because my first hand experience gave me knowledge of what is wrong with the law and when I started to research it and understand some of the facts it was obvious to me that the moral argument is clear and the public support is great.
“A change in the law alongside access to good palliative care is what is being proposed and very importantly it is proposed for terminally ill, mentally competent, adults it’s not for assisted suicide of vulnerable people who have just decided they do not want to live any longer.
“The proposed assisted dying law would give a dying person choice and comfort while providing better protection and safeguards to check for abuse and coercion.”
The Assisted Dying Bill will be tabled at the House of Lords some time in May, with a key second reading debate likely to follow in the autumn.