Category Archives: Assisted suicide

Please talk about this

Thursday, 8 December 2011


This press release was issued this morning by Dignity in Dying following Geraldine McClelland’s death at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland:


08 Dec 2011: My dying wish: please talk about my death
In September I decided to travel abroad to die. Having made the necessary arrangements, in October I contacted Dignity in Dying and asked for their help in making my views on assisted dying public. Below is an open letter to anyone and everyonewho is interested and concerned about the issue. I have asked Dignity in Dying to distribute it to the media on my behalf when I am in Zurich.

My name is Geraldine McClelland and I have chosen to die today.

I am 61 years old and am dying from lung and liver cancer, which metastasised from my breast cancer two years ago. I spent my working life at the BBC, producing programmes such as Watchdog, Food and Drink, Health Check and Crimewatch.

I have chosen to travel abroad to die because I can not have the death I want here in the UK. I would like to be able to choose to take medication to end my life if my suffering becomes unbearable for me, at home, with my family and friends around me. But the law in this country prevents me from doing so. As a result I am travelling abroad to take advantage of Switzerland’s compassionate law. I was worried this option would be taken away from me when the Swiss people were asked to vote on whether British people (and other non-Swiss) should be allowed to continue to have an assisted death there. Thankfully they voted overwhelmingly to continue to let people like me have the death I choose, albeit in a foreign country. I was fortunate to be able to retire ten years ago and have been able to thoroughly enjoy my retirement, travelling the world. The lung cancer is now causing me serious breathing problems, meaning I am largely confined to my flat.

I am not sad that I will die today. I am angry that because of the cowardice of our politicians I can’t die in the country I was born in, in my own home, but I am not sad. I feel sure this is the right decision for me and I am relieved that I won’t be forced to suffer any more. Please don’t feel sad for me either. If you feel anything at all when you read this letter then please turn it into a fight to change the law so that other people don’t have to travel abroad to die, and that those who are unable to because they can’t travel, or can’t afford the fees don’t have to attempt suicide at home or continue to suffer against their will. In that respect I am one of the lucky ones.

I believe that as part of my end of life care, which has otherwise been good, I should have been allowed to choose not to endure the last weeks of my life, and I believe you should have that choice when you are dying too. I don’t believe that my brother and sister should have to break the law so that they can be with me when I die. Your loved ones should not be in that position either. My decision is made, I choose to die on my own terms and with my family around me in Zurich, and it’s too late to change the law for me, but please, if you care about this issue at all please make your voice heard. I appreciate that it is a difficult subject, but when dying cannot be avoided, let us be compassionate enough and tolerant enough to respect choice.

Geraldine McClelland

Wants out

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Since a stroke six years ago Tony Nicklinson’s life has been, in his own words, ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable’. Tony can only move his head and his eyes. He has locked-in syndrome. 

And now he wants to die. 

In fact, he’s demanding the same right to end his life that any able-bodied person has. But because he is physically unable to kill himself, he’s issued proceedings in the High Court asking for a declaration that it is lawful for a doctor to terminate his life, with his consent and with him making the decision with full mental capacity.

Full story here



Hat-tip to Kingfisher 


An Instinct for Kindness

Monday, 21 November 2011


From the review in the Guardian:

Last year Chris Larner took his ex-wife Allyson – with whom he had remained good friends – to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland where she ended her life. It was a life that had become unbearable because of the constant pain, indignities and limits imposed upon her by multiple sclerosis, a condition she had lived with for more than 25 years. Allyson decided that enough was enough.

It is its total lack of sentimentality that makes it so moving, and half the audience is in pieces long before the end. That, and because the redoubtable Allyson is so fully present in the show. Planning her own funeral, she declares: “I don’t want any stiff upper lip. I want weeping and wailing and inconsolable.” This was not a woman to go gently into that good night, and this is a show that reminds us that how we die is as important as how we live.

Jaw war

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dear Supporter

The Daily Mail is running a poll for a limited amount of time asking
‘Was the BBC right to screen an assisted suicide?’

If you do not think that the BBC should have screened an assisted suicide, please
(Scroll down the article, about a quarter of the way down there is a small blue box,

titled ‘Today’s Poll’)

Care Not Killing has published a press release
which warns of the dangers of ‘copycat suicide’ following the screening of the BBC programme.

Thank you for contacting the BBC to express your own views about the programme.

If you have not already done so, please contact the BBC with your personal views.
You can either comment online or telephone 03700 100 222 and press 1. (After the beep, you will have only 1 minute to leave your personal opinion.)

Thank you for your continued support and action,

CNK Alliance


The Euthanasia Coaster

Thursday, 28 April 2011

I don’t know if you ever visit the Exit euthansia blog, or Exit’s website. Highly recommended. Exit is not Dignity in Dying, which used to be called Exit. Exit is the breakaway, ‘fiercely independent’ Scottish-based group which advocates euthanasia in the UK, has members worldwide, and has just published an updated edition of its guide to self-deliverance, Five Last Acts. I wish I had the money to buy a copy.

The Exit blog is unfailingly thought provoking and well informed. If it’s not on your blogroll, add it.

Yesterday’s post about the Euthanasia Coaster is fascinating. Euthanasia Coaster?

Euthanasia Coaster is a hypothetical euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to humanely—with elegance and euphoria—take the life of a human being. Riding the coaster’s track, the rider is subjected to a series of intensive motion elements that induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness and eventually death. Thanks to the marriage of the advanced cross-disciplinary research in aerospace medicine, mechanical engineering, material technologies and of course gravity, the fatal journey is made pleasing, elegant and meaningful. Celebrating the limits of the human body but also the liberation from the horizontal life, this ‘kinetic sculpture’ is in fact the ultimate roller coaster. John Allen, former president of the famed Philadelphia Toboggan Company, once said that “the ultimate roller coaster is built when you send out twenty-four people and they all come back dead. This could be done, you know.” [Source]

If that’s whetted your appetite to find out exactly how the Euthanasia Coaster kills you thrillingly, go visit the blog.


A time to die

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Every week in the Spectator magazine Peter Jones takes an occurrence or development in contemporary society and politics and considers it in the light of what the ancients did when faced with the same circumstances. This week he considers the art of dying. I’d now bung you a link but I can’t: the Speccie does not unleash its content online til it has gathered some dust. The joy of the Spectator lies in the quality of its writing (sadly not its politics). It’s almost worth the cover price for Mr Jones alone. I hope he won’t mind a quote-strewn precis.

He begins:

“So everyone is going to live much longer and will therefore have to work much longer to pay for their pensions. But what is so wrong with dying, Greeks and Romans would ask?

“Homeric heroes sought to compensate for death with eternal heroic glory … Plato argued that the soul was immortal. The Roman poet Lucretius thought that was the problem. For him, life was an incipient hell because of man’s eternal desire for novelty. So as soon as he had fulfilled one desire, he was immediately gawping after another. What satisfaction could there be in that? The soul was mortal, he argued, and death, therefore, should be welcomed as a blessed release.”

Cicero concurred. We run out of things to interest us and are glad to go. “A character in one of Euripides’ tragedies put it more succinctly: ‘I can’t stand people who try to prolong life with foods and potions and spells to keep death at bay. Once they’ve lost their use on earth they should clear off and die and leave it to the young.’

“For Seneca the question was whether ‘one was lengthening one’s own life — or one’s death.’ “

Jones concludes: “Marcus Aurelius put it beautifully: ‘Spend these fleeting moments as Nature would have you spend them, and then go to your rest with a good grace, as an olive falls in season, with a blessing for the earth that bore it and a thanksgiving to the tree that gave it life.'”

Right to die – when is it, and do you have a?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Assisted dying, self-deliverance, euthanasia and allowing people to die naturally – all these are hot topics which can only get hotter. I’ve just had this email from CareNotKilling, and anti-assisted dying org:

Channel 4 are giving you the opportunity to voice your views on a series of short films about euthanasia, which are being shown on Channel 4 next week.

Next week ‘’ are exploring attitudes towards euthanasia, and asking whether it should be legalised in Britain.

The 90 second films will be airing after the news every evening on Channel 4 (around 7:55pm) next week.  Viewers can then share their own thoughts and feelings about euthanasia, respond to the individual films and reply to other viewer comments on their website

Channel 4 are interested in all thoughts related to the films, whether you agree with the speaker or strongly oppose what they say, and hope people will also share personal views and and experiences.

This is a great opportunity to make your views known on such an important issue.

Please watch and respond to the films online by going to:

I’d not come across this Channel 4 slot before, and as I surveyed the schedule I reckoned I probably wouldn’t be able to make time to watch most of them. No worries. I can watch them online later and I can still leave a comment. I’ll be doing that for sure.

Over at the Exit blog I read this:

The religious right are already organised: the Independent Catholic News is urging people to respond online and the Church of Scotland is using its blog and facebook. The pro-choice lobby represents 80% of the population, yet when it comes to expressing our thoughts we are way behind. [Source]

Reading that after getting my email from CareNotKilling, I can see what they mean. Exit wants those who support its cause to be sure to get online.

Whichever side you’re on, you may want to do the same. Here’s the schedule:

Lesley Close – sister of an assisted suicide
Monday 17 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Lesley Close’s brother John had motor neurone disease. In 2003 Lesley accompanied him to a suicide clinic in Switzerland where she witnessed his ‘dignified and amazing’ death.

Martin Amis – luminary of the literary world
Tuesday 18 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Author Martin Amis believes that euthanasia is an evolutionary inevitability. Martin caused controversy by putting forward the idea of suicide booths on street corners and thinks that future generations will look back at how we have abandoned people to their longevity as ‘barbaric’.

Motor neurone disease makes my life richer
Thursday 20 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Michael Wenham was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He believes his life is now richer than it was before his illness and that euthanasia is a selfish act that fails to take account of the feelings of those who are left behind.

A right-to-die activist speaks out
Friday 21 January, 7.25PM on Channel 4
Dr Michael Irwin believes that it is a doctor’s duty to ease a patient’s suffering and wants to see a change in the law that would allow doctor-assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill. He has personally accompanied patients to the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland to help them end their lives.

A terminally ill doctor speaks out
Saturday 22 January, 6.50PM on Channel 4
Dr Ann McPherson has terminal cancer. Ann hopes that, when the time comes, she will be able to have the option of an assisted death in Britain.

A Sunday opponent hopes to round things off
Sunday 23 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Kevin Fitzpatrick believes that legalising euthanasia in Britain would be a terrible mistake and that many more disabled people would die as a result. Kevin believes that we should put our energies into improving palliative care services rather than trying to make it easier for people to hasten their deaths.

Helpers fail, comforts flee

Monday, 20 September 2010

I enjoyed this piece by David Nobbs, creator of Reginald Perrin, in yesterday’s Observer. Here are some extracts.

My mother died on 7 August 1995. I didn’t realise, that day, my life had changed … My mother died, as she had lived, unselfishly. After she’d died, my wife Susan and I were just in time for Sunday lunch at my aunt’s. That may sound frivolous, but it was so typical of her I actually believe that some unconscious influence was at work.

She had lived about as happily as it was possible to live in the 20th century, for almost 95 years. She had been ill and in hospital only for the last two weeks. At times, during those two weeks, she had been restless and disturbed, but that Sunday morning she became more and more peaceful. Her breathing began to get slower. She had worried for Wales, and I had no doubt this contributed heavily to her worry lines, but now all those lines disappeared – her face became smooth and she looked young again. Her breathing faded and slowed so imperceptibly it was hard to recognise the moment she actually died.

I can honestly say, on reflection, that witnessing her death took away from me all fear of my death. (Not of my wife’s death. I fear loss dreadfully.)

That doesn’t mean I welcome the ravages of old age. I fight against them. In my 70s I have taken on a fitness trainer and last month I began to tweet! I hope that I will not die in great pain or in an old people’s home. But I no longer fear the moment when I will cease to exist

But the most important thing that happened to me in the wake of my mother’s death wasn’t the strengthening of my feelings against religion. It was the strengthening of my feelings for disbelief. I believe that there are just as many of the “Christian virtues” to be found among the faithless as the faithful…

Loss of faith. It sounds so negative. I didn’t lose faith. I gained faith. Faith in people. I am proud to describe myself as a humanist.

This growing conviction has had quite an effect on my writing – on the novels, at least. I am sometimes described as a comic novelist, but I describe myself simply as a novelist. I write about life, and in life I see much humour and much tragedy, and that is what I write about.

An irony of all this is that if my mother could hear me, could read this, she would be very distressed and would be horrified to think that her death had led me down this road. Well, there it is, it’s what has happened and luckily I believe (know?) that she can’t.

Read the entire article here.

David Nobbs talks about how he is dealing with ‘the ravages of old age.’ I guess that, as we embark on an era when, for most of us, we’ve never had it so old, there will be more and more writers dealing with if and how ageing can be made endurable as physical debility advances and we are deserted by all interest in sex and shopping. A book which has been well reviewed is Jane Miller’s Crazy Age: Thoughts on Being Old. There’s article by her in the Guardian here. The social problems thrown up by an ageing population will become more and more apparent in the next 20 years and I suppose the answers to them are, for the time being, unthinkable. But not for very much longer.

Over on BBC Radio 4 tonight at 8pm there’s a challenging-sounding if uncheerful-sounding  programme, Exit Strategy, by Jenny Cuffe about assisted dying and self-deliverance. The debate over whether we should legalise assisted suicide is not going away. But whilst we flounder over the grey areas of the British legal system, a radical Australian doctor has found a loophole. Because physically helping someone to die is illegal, he is providing information to paying participants on how to die peacefully and painlessly kill themselves … Talking with geriatricians, psychologists, campaigners and elderly people she explores society’s last great taboo: death. She asks why so many people approaching old age are scared of dying. Are they being failed by our care system? Are advances in medicine extending quantity but not quality of life? Or is even discussing assisted suicide for the elderly symptomatic of an ageist society that undervalues the old? Should the ‘I want’ generation be able to make the choice of when we die and have the right to plan our own Exit Strategy?” If you miss it, you can always catch it on the Listen Again.

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