Dinity in Dying and Compassion in Dying

These are twin charities, which I have belonged to for some years. The firts campaigns and the second provides advice, help and support, including free forms for Advanced Directives. I have had one in place, since I made a new will at the time of my divorce, because I do not want to be kept alive simply because it is technically possible!

I was at the AGM On Wednesday and lobbied my MP to support the draft bill to allow assisted dying, with strong safeguards, for a very limited group. It was an inspiring meeting, addressed by Terry Pratchett and Zoe Wannamaker, both of whom I met, and Chris Larner presented an abridged version of his award winning one man play about taking his wife to Dignitas. There were a lot of familiar faces from theatre and TV there! 700 people were there, they had laid on buses from some areas. This was more people than the last AGM I attended. Now, of course I have a vested interest. I want to live well but I am not interested in treatments that will merely prolong breathing. I have already had this discussion with my oncologist and made it clear that it is quality of life that I want and that, when the time comes I want to go with dignity and not screaming to be let go. My friend Colin's wife took 6 years, paralysed and unable to communicate, dosed with antibiotics and fed through a tube. He said her eyes pleaded for release but they were practising catholics and every new infection was treated with more antibiotics, left her worse than before. Three months after she died he was killed riding his motorbike.

It is a personal thing for me since I saw my grandfather take four years of humiliating dependence after a massive stroke. I think that this is always a very personal subject and many of you will feel that it is not an appropriatebfor this site but anyone who wants to know more can read it up on the website dignityindying.org.uk where there is information on the work that the charities do.

Strange as it may seem members are very positive people and the experience in Oregon, where they have had this law for 15 years is that only 50% of those who are approved ever actually take the route in the end. Having the right and the means seems to give strength in the end. The research is on the website.

Margaret

18 Replies

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  • Thanks for this post Margaret. I'm with you all the way, and have been since long before I was ill. My oncologist and GP both know about and agree with my feelings. I will definitely go in and have a read.

    Best wishes. Cathy xx

  • Thank you for this, wholeheartedly second what you say.

    All the best, Monique

  • Dear Margaret

    Thanks for this post. It's informative and helpful and I'm sure it's very relevant to everyone's life - not just women on this site. What you say I completely agree with. My friend's mum-in-law organised a painless death after saying goodbye to her family and with them round her to comfort her in her last moments. This is standard practice in the Netherlands and seems compassionate. I have similar images of close friends and family suffering unnecessarily and if it were a choice for me I would subscribe to such a procedure.

    I hadn't heard of these charities but will definitely look them up and follow them.

    A great blog.

    xx Annie

  • If you feel like that Annie please write to your MP and ask them to take part in the consultation process and so the safeguards are watertight and then to support the bill when Lord Faulkener sponsors it later in the year!

  • I was worried about posting this blog in case it upset people but those who agree with me please contact your M.P's and encourage them to read the report of the commission on assisted dying and the draft consultation document and to support the bill or, if hey really feel they cannot to adopt a neutral stance. Priests everywhere are urging congregations to write opposing it and thus their voice is more influential than the numbers justify.

    Margaret

  • Dear Margaret

    Further to your comment above, I was not going to reply but feel I must to correct your assertion that the fact that priests are urging congregations to take action opposing the bill means that the "against vote" is more influential. In fact the priests are just bringing the matter to the attention of their congregation the same way you have done by posting this and also you are encouraging people to write to their MPs so there is no difference between what you are doing and what you claim the priests are doing. As you have stated you are an atheist you really have no first hand knowledge of what the priests are saying. By the way people opposing the bill, myself included, are concerned about the vulnerable in society and the worry that older, otherwise reasonably healthy people, will be made to feel by unscrupulous people (maybe even uncaring relatives) that it is their "duty" to die. Whatever promises are usually made about controversial decisions usually do not stand. I personally feel this forum is for the support of people with ovarian cancer and politically we are all different therefore controversial issues should not be raised.

    Kind regards

    Anne

  • Dear Anne

    I am sorry if I offended you but the assertion was not mine it was what my MP said happens and a priest or minister speaking from the pulpit does more than just "draw attention" to a topic. MP's take note of the number of letters that they get on a topic. There is no equally influential organisation working for those who are in favour!

    It is in order to protect the vulnerable that the safeguards need to be tight and the bill needs careful scrutiny. For this the draft requires careful consideration not blanket opposition.

    Oregon, which has had the law for 15 years, has found no increase in deaths of the vulnerable. Briefly, the law there Requires two doctors, unconnected to one another, to certify that the candidate has a termnal condition and is competent to make a choice. The prescription is then held by a pharmacy and not collected by another health professional, who will administer it, until the Patient asks for it. Only 50% of requests get beyond this.

    I am an atheist now but I was, once, a believer and regular communicant . I took instruction in the catholic faith as a student but was unable to make the act faith. I continued as a communicant until my late 30's but found that I could not continue as a bliever. I do not wish to destroy the faith of others but I do not accept that I must be made to suffer for their beliefs. I have never tried to destroy another's faith but I am apalled by the actions 'believers' commit in the name of their faiths.

    One of the issues raised by speakers on Wednesday was that many of the objectors want to keep the sufferer alive for selfish reasons, because they are not ready to let go themselves.

    I do not want to make this route compulsory nor to persuade anyone who is not already in favour to support this bill. All I am asking is that those who do support it should make that clear to their MP and ask them to scrutinise it carefully. Perhaps I am less cynical about the motives of carers, I do not know, I am a single individual not an authority figure in a pulpit.

    I was in two minds about posting this because yours is a common reaction and a reason why I have kept such views private.

    I have found this forum supportive and I am not advocating anyone choosing this path. I do feel, however, that i have a right to a view.

    Other posts show me that I am not the only one to want to have a choice! I cannot afford the £10,000 + to go to dignitas in Switzerland, nor do I want to have to go too early so that I can manage alone. I do not want to have to ask my children to risk prosecution nor do I want to put them through the trauma. I want the choice to be mine. I have accepted the fact that this is killing me, at present life is good but, eventually it may cease to be even tolerable and I want a choice of a dignified end.

    It strikes me as strange that those who believe in an afterlife are most opposed to letting others reach it.

    I thought hard before posting and was clear in my heading so that those who did not agree need not read the blog. I am pragmatic about my expectations and have discussed the probable end with my oncologist. I just hope I have as much courage and dignity as Lizzie did but, if I do not, I want to be able to choose without a Dr or other health professional suffering for it.

    I'm sorry if I offended you but your implication that I know nothing of religion is also offensive, I am used to that, believers seem unable to accept that one can, regretfully, cease to believe. This site is indeed supportive but it is not supportive to make it impossible to discuss the elephant in the room.

    Margaret

  • Margaret

    There are many points you make in your long response which could be debated but, as mentioned in my earlier post, I do not feel this is the appropriate forum for controversial issues. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion but on such a sensitive subject it should not be made here. My original point was made as I felt your comments regarding priests influencing people was derogatory.

    You may think you have knowledge of religion but you do not appear to have experience of faith which is different to blindly obeying anything a priest or anybody else says (including Zoe Wannamaker and any other celebrity who may wade into debates). A lot of atheists seem to think that they know what someone with faith thinks and feels and erroneously base their comments accordingly. Quite simply, they do not know what they are talking about and should desist.

    Kind regards

    Anne

  • We obviously have to agree to disagreeon this. I don't claim anyone blindly obeys a priest, just that they have influence. Losing my faith was a painful process.

    I did not start this blog to be controversial simply to ask people who feel as I do to urge their MP's to take part in the debate.

    Margaret

  • Margaret

    I agree we disagree with this issue. It is rather worrying though and you (and your MP) seem to think that people who go to church do not have a right to think/vote/take action on this issue. Things must have been a lot different at the church you went to but most churchs are involved in the life of the community here and further afield. We do live in a democratic country and each person is entitled to their opinion and vote despite these prejudices you mention. It seems celebritys have become the 'priests' of large numbers of the population.

    Kind regards

    Anne

  • Sorry Anne you have misinterpreted my remarks and my MP's. What he said was that he would get lots of letters from churchgoers opposing the bill, Who, of course have a right to an opinion and to express it, but not many letters from people who felt as I do.

    Most of the people who attended the lobby were there because they had personal stories. Terry Pratchett has a form of alzheimers and Zoe Wannamaker and her sisters had to deal with their father's unsuccessful suicide attempt when he was in the final stages of prostate cancer.

    You appear determined to think me unprincipled and prejudiced, i on the other han believe that everyone should have the right to self determination! It must be wonderful to be so certain that you, and only you, are right!

    In friendship!

    Margaret

  • Margaret

    I am not claiming that only I am right, my main point is that this issue is complex and emotive and should be discussed on a different forum. A change in the law affects everybody in this country and is a major issue and I do not believe lobbying for political, or indeed religious purposes, should take place on this site. You now claim I have misinterpreted your comments re priests and your mp. Perhaps in future you will, as an atheist, avoid any mention regarding such matters you do not believe in therefore avoiding any future misinterpretation. I do not wish to comment any further on this issue and will leave it at that,

    Kind regards

    Anne

  • Dear Margaret,

    An interesting post, can I come from a different angle too. I worked for many years as a hospice nurse and 99% of patients died peacefully without pain and with dignity. They and their loved were surrounded by love.and support for however long they needed us.

    No criticism of your post is intended just wanted to reassure people that there are alternatives.

    Suex

  • Don't get me wrong! I support the hospice movement. They do wonderful work and I I contribute to our local hospice but I know that they cannot render the end totally painless for everyone. My friend Jean had to choose between excruciating pain and being so heavily drugged with morphine that she did not know anyone! When the time comes for me I want a range of choices and for the choice to be mine, not someone else's!

    Margaret! Xxx

  • Absolutely agree with you. I feel that if I knew when everything stops working I could have a day to gather my family and make a peacefull, dignified exit, it would make the living now so much more enjoyable. I too think hospice is wonderful for thoes who want that route, I do not. Find it hard to believe that the UK is still not civilized enough to offer this to terminally ill and competent patients.

    Thank you very much for airing this topic.

    Dorothy xx

  • Hi Margaret

    Defiinatly with you all the way here. I watched my mum die in serious pain, and swore I wouldn't let that happen to me. I was also in close contact with an amazing lady with oc when she died, and was aware that she was drugged out of her mind.

    I too will do what I can to help bring this law to fruition.

    Sue

    X

  • I defintely agree with you, too, Margaret. I was with my Mum-in-Law when she died and it was absolutely harrowing. The thought that was running through my mind was - "You wouldn't let an animal suffer like this. This can't be right ".

    Some years later my Step-dad had a dreadful disease, similar to,but worse, than Parkinson's Disease . He endured an unbearable few years and was desperate to die. He could do nothing. Could barely breathe, move, swallow or even talk. We all yearned for his death, for his sake.

    Three years ago, my Mum suddenly developed a horrific paralysing disease. In a few short months she became locked in her body and in the end she had to STARVE to death over many days because she couldn't swallow, talk or even blink properly. She was too ill to even have a feeding "peg" put into her stomach. Her body was unable to even cope with the small amount of liquid the Doctors tried to put into her body.

    How can it possibly be right to allow people to endure such awfulness? All three were given all the care they could, surrounded by loving, compassionate people who were helpless to do the one thing that needed to be done for them. As I said earlier - you wouldn't allow an animal such suffering - why should you MAKE a human-being do so ?

    Sorry to be so depressing but I feel so passionate about this - as I think most people having been in my situation must do.

    On a brighter note - Hey,the rain's stopped and the sun's just come out at last !!

    With sincere apologies if I've upset anyone, Solange

  • Thank you Solange!

    I was concerned that this topic might offend but I wanted to be sure that those who feel as I do knew of the work being done. These charities grew out of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which I did not support, and D in D does not advocate Euthanasia either, the reason being the need for very stringent safeguards.

    Belgium and the Netherlands do seem to have a system that works but I would need to know more before I supported it.

    Margaret!

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