Please talk about this

Charles Cowling

 

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

 

 

www.campaignfordignityindying.org.uk

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Richard Piercy
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Richard Piercy

I agree, that is a strong argument to stop the rush to get to somewhere sensible before one is incapable, probably live longer with the “exit insurance” in the cupboard and about 25% probability, if I understand the Oragan 2010 figures correctly, of letting the condition take its course.

Richard Piercy
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Richard Piercy

Well Oregan seem to be providing informative statistics! How did they get there? It would be useful to see the content of the debate leading to the act, build on success.

Richard Piercy
Guest
Richard Piercy

In the iterests of informed debate I am working through;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/euthanasia/
and;
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/health/euthanasia/basics.stm
and;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia
(first few hits on Google!) better late than never?

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I agree we cannot risk putting people to death for convenience’s sake, the picture your horrific vision of a future Orwellian, ethics-free zone evokes, Richard. But on the other hand, by denying the right of self destination to all, we would be protecting the interests of the vulnerable by prolonging the suffering of the innocent. Why should they have to pay in pain for their fellow human beings’ anticipated future lack of nobility? Why should the Netherlands’ mistake be bound to be repeated? Is your opinion of human beings so low? Can we not aspire? I don’t believe you really… Read more »

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

The best way to get that debate progressed? Sound ethical and practical reasons that beat the objections. Although the need for euthanasia to relieve pain and suffering is the justification given, and the one the public accepts in supporting legalisation, research shows that dying people request euthanasia far more frequently because of fear of social isolation or being a burden on others, than pain. Sufficient justification? Some pro-euthanasia advocates argue that respect for people’s rights to autonomy and self-determination means competent adults have a right to die at a time of their choosing, and the state has no right to… Read more »

Richard Piercy
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Richard Piercy

I think that given the political courage UK laws can be devised to allow people to arrange their death AND protect the vulnerable, and they should be. I don’t feel I need to set out my arguments for and against here, that can wait until a realistic debate is opened. The question is what is the best way to get that debate progressed and the laws devised?

Quokkagirl
Guest
Quokkagirl

Hear! Hear! What Geraldine has done takes great courage – even more so for her family, but how sad that she couldn’t end her life in her own country in her own way. Making arrangements to go to Zurich meant booking rooms and flights in advance, yet the moment of ‘enough is enough’ may not be that easy to predict. For that reason alone, she has had to make an advanced decision about when she is ready to die yet it is surely something which becomes obvious, not something one can predict in a diary. That aspect of having to… Read more »

gloriamundi
Guest

I’m trying to concentrate on the compassion, respect and gratitude I feel for this woman, and not on the rage and despair I feel about our sluggish, ill-informed, mediocre, coarse political culture. We throw mud at our politicians, perhaps rightly, for moral cowardice and mediocrity; we vote for them. They don’t get there without us. We must continue to work for huge changes in our culture’s awareness of mortality, and then, eventually, as the rusty old wheels of the body politic clunk away, a party may actually get elected that will do something about this. If we all stopped denying… Read more »

Simon Ferrar
Guest

No one can stand in the shoes of another and make a judgement on what is right for them. We can only, honestly (and hopefully) judge our own end-of-life circumstances. My heart goes out to all of Geraldine’s family and all of you who knew Geraldine, in the knowledge that you couldn’t all be together today, at her home, when she died. I cry with you. I didn’t know Geraldine but I do so admire her determination and courage; to arrange your own death and then publicise the reason for it, is in my opinion, both extraordinary and dignified. I… Read more »