Dear Mr Doughty,
I am writing to ask you to support the Assisted Dying Bill when it is published next week and comes before Parliament. I understand from your reply to a friend that you will not be considering this till it is published on 11 September; given it has been widely trailed please take this as a plea for your support when you do come to consider the matter.
Last year my mother died. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2003, although she was showing symptoms in 2002. She lived with it a long time before she died at 84. Over those years she lost her balance, her voice, her dignity and her courage, though not her wits. From a brave and physically active woman she became increasingly paralysed and bedevilled with anxiety and depression, but she always knew what was happening to her and the prognosis for her illness. For the last 18 months she was confined to a chair, unable to stand, walk, eat or drink without help. She had dedicated friends and carers and so, in a wheelchair and with difficulty, she was able to get out regularly.
More than anything she loved horses and her greatest pleasure to the end of her life was driving a pony trap; for the last five years she relied on a local charity to make it possible, and she would celebrate her expeditions every Monday in the summer months. One Friday in July she told me she wouldn’t be going the next week as she didn’t think it was safe any more. That Sunday she stopped allowing herself to be helped to get up and she stopped eating. She took liquids for another 20 days till my brother, who lives abroad, could come and see her, by which time she was unable to speak but clearly knew what was happening to her. As soon as he left she stopped drinking. She died 7 days later, having taken 28 days to go.
In the last year or so she had repeatedly asked me to take her to Switzerland, or to help her die at home. I had refused, not because I didn’t believe in her right to die but because she was much too ill to travel. I was not prepared to risk a prison sentence by helping her in any other way. So she really only had that one choice. She could not collect drugs, or jump off a bridge, or drown herself. She was absolutely powerless.
I know she would have preferred to die suddenly, in full health, doing something involving a horse and having reach 100. She didn’t have that opportunity. Given how ill she became, her options were very limited. Maybe she wouldn’t have taken the poison. Maybe she would have preferred to go the way she did anyway. But it would have been her choice.
Everyone should have that choice. This is not about disability or religion or euthanasia. It is not even in itself about illness or age. For each individual, it is about their own choice to end their suffering, and only each person can decide when enough is enough.
Please remember this story, and the many others like it you will hear during this debate, and vote to give people their choice to die with dignity.
This is the email I sent earlier this week to my MP in advance of today’s first reading of the private members bill that will get its first reading today. (You can read more, including commentary from those opposed, here.) I;m not even sure it would have covered my mother; you can linger a long time, hallucinating and paralysed, with Parkinson’s Disease and maybe they would not have accepted her illness as terminal within six months. I profoundly believe she should have had the choice.
I did write about Celia’s death at the time and many people were supportive. Now is the time to think of the many stories in your lives and take a few moments to send the details to your MP. This bill is not about a bogey man of euthanasia or mercenary pressure. It is about the real monster of dying by inches, among strangers, with no remaining dignity or self-determination.
The picture below is my mother at the reins about two years ago. Thank you to Driving for the Disabled who gave her so much pleasure.