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Activists call for assisted dying laws as Brits ‘take matters into their own hands’

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According to official data, between January 2017 and March 2020 a total of 978 patients died by suicide in England with one of three serious health conditions, many of which are incurable

Gareth Ward with his father Norman who took his own life
Gareth Ward with his father Norman who took his own life

Official data has found that seriously ill and dying Britons are more than twice as likely to end their own lives.

A unique analysis has revealed that between January 2017 and March 2020, a total of 978 patients died by suicide in England with one of three serious health conditions, many of which are incurable.

Right-to-die campaigners have warned that data shows large numbers of distraught Britons are “taking matters into their own hands” as there are no legal routes to an assisted death in England.

The study, commissioned by former Health Secretary Matt Hancock following a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life last year, found that suicide rates in patients with cancer with low survival rates dropped one year after diagnosis .4 times higher than the general population.







There are no legal avenues of euthanasia in England
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(Getty Images)

Suicide rates were similarly high in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

While people with chronic ischemic heart disease were almost twice as likely to die by suicide as the rest of the population.

The data follows a string of high-profile suicides by people with terminal illnesses, including Formula 1 boss Max Mosley and Dr. Christopher Woollard, a professor with terminal cancer who stole a plane and crashed it, ending his life.

It also comes as the Crown Prosecution Service is considering a proposed update to its guidance on prosecuting mercy killings and suicide pacts, particularly in cases where the deceased was seriously ill and had a firm desire to die.







Supported dying activist Suzie Jee at a march with a picture of her terminally ill father as he committed suicide
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Tim Happy)







Suzie Jee with her father George on her wedding day
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Tim Happy)

The leader of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, Andrew Mitchell, said the data was a “daming indictment” of end-of-life choices in the UK.

While Marjorie Wallace CBE, executive director of mental health charity SANE, said traditional suicide prevention measures are not an appropriate response for those who are terminally ill and want to ease the dying process.

She added, “It is unforgivable and inhumane that dying people should end their lives alone and abandoned, but this data shows that under current law, that is the case for many.”

The Dignity in Dying campaign group is calling for new laws to give terminally ill, mentally competent adults access to euthanasia.







Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London as MPs debate and vote on the Euthanasia Bill 2015
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PA)

Managing Director Sarah Wootton added: “Dignity in Dying has long sounded the alarm about terminally ill people taking their own lives under the euthanasia ban.

“These data prove that these deaths are not isolated tragedies, but rather warning signs that current law has serious patient safety implications for people who are dying that can no longer be ignored.”

dr Care Not Killing’s Gordon McDonald, however, opposes euthanasia and calls for more psychological support for terminal patients.

Gareth Ward, 45, received a heartbreaking phone call just before his terminally ill father took his own life.







Norman was suffering from his cancer
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Phillip Harris)

Former soldier and builder Norman found himself in a “world of pain” after his prostate cancer spread to his bones and lungs, and had recently suffered a stroke when he took the drastic measures last June.

He was spotted in his garden in Gravesend, Kent, by his daughter before emergency services arrived.

The family could hardly believe the frail 75-year-old, who could barely walk up the stairs, had access to the shotgun, which he kept in a locked box in the attic.

Gareth, from Rayleigh, Essex, told the Mirror: “I don’t feel like what he did was suicide. He was very sick and in so much pain. I can understand why he chose to do this.







Gareth said he understood why his father took his own life
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Picture:

Phillip Harris)







Gareth Ward pictured at home
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Picture:

Phillip Harris)

“I don’t like the idea that he ended his life – he ended his death. He was already dying right before our eyes.”

If Norman had had access to assisted death, he could have died peacefully with loved ones around him, Gareth added.

He called for a “more compassionate law” and urged lawmakers to consider “the human costs” of the blanket ban on euthanasia.

“These are not just statistics, behind every one of these numbers there is a heartbroken family,” he said.

Activist Suzie Jee’s father, George, helped die, took his own life rather than face a painful and protracted death from esophageal cancer.

But if he had access to legal euthanasia, his daughter believes he could have died peacefully at home with loved ones by his bedside.







Suzie Lee is committed to making euthanasia legal
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Tim Happy)

Suzie, 76, from Sevenoaks, Kent, told the Mirror: “It would have meant he could die in his own bed with his family around to say goodbye, rather than walking away and being completely isolated and alone in his car . That’s criminal for me.”

And 45 years later, after being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, the ex-nurse could face the decision of whether to end her life in a Swiss clinic if euthanasia laws are not changed in the UK.

Reacting to the recent suicides of terminally ill Brits, she added: “These are not isolated tragedies, they happen every day because people are so desperate they cannot afford the cost of around £10,000 to travel to Switzerland.

“More and more people are becoming desperate and taking their own lives in horribly extreme ways. I think we just need the government to listen. It is a topic that is becoming more and more relevant.”

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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/campaigners-call-assisted-dying-laws-26758584 Activists call for assisted dying laws as Brits 'take matters into their own hands'

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