Last week we had a meeting with two people from Dignity in Dying www.dignityindying.org.uk
We met with their Senior Policy Advisor Davina Hehir and Press and Campaigns Manager Jo Cartwright. Roch had made contact with their organisation, expressing an interest in becoming actively involved in their campaign for a change to the law around assisted dying in the UK. Both Roch and I are aware that this is a divisive issue and that feelings run high. However, I believe that a lot of the objections to changing the law are based on a lack of information about and understanding of the proposed changes and a very understandable reaction to scaremongering in the tabloids.
So, why does this organisation exist? Here I quote from the Dignity in Dying website, where they answer that question themselves:
“Why are we here?
We believe that high-quality end-of-life care should be complemented by the choice of an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults who meet strict safeguards and feel their suffering has become unbearable.
Without a change in the law, terminally ill people will suffer against their wishes at the end of life and will continue to make decisions without the advice of medical or social care professionals.
Those who can afford to will travel abroad for an assisted death, others will attempt suicide behind closed doors, some will refuse food and water to bring about their death, and far too many will ask family members and loved ones to help them die. All will be denied the choice of safe assisted death, in their own home, at a time of their choosing.
None of these options offer open and honest conversations with health and social care professionals and the only deterrent against abuse is the threat of prosecution after somebody has died. Assisted dying legislation would introduce up-front safeguards to check for abuse and coercion before somebody dies. In short, we want greater choice and greater protection for people at the end of life.”
Let me state here that Roch does not wish to die just yet and has no plans either to take his own life, or to request assistance to do so. But he would like to think that when the time comes, he might have a choice about how, when and where he dies and so he intends to get involved in the campaign to change the law to allow assisted dying (within the proposed strict safeguards) for terminally ill adults, who have the mental capacity to make such a choice. It is unlikely that the law will be changed in time for Roch to avail of it, should he wish to do so, but he hopes to be part of the movement for change for the benefit of others.
I include a link to the Consultation document produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, in partnership with Dignity in Dying. This sets out clearly both the present law, the proposed changes and reasons for the proposed changes, and the draft Bill. I can do no better than to refer you to this and ask that you read it before you make up your mind about the issue.
As for Roch – don’t be surprised if you see an interview with him in one of the newspapers or hear him on radio – perhaps even TV. He intends to work closely with the Press and Campaigns Office at Dignity, to tell his story and explain why he wants to get involved.