Not as a stranger

On Monday, January 15, 2018, an important meeting is to be held of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Choice at the end of life. The meeting will take place in the afternoon of January 15 in Committee Room 15 of the House of Commons, the home of the British parliamentary system of democracy.
The meeting will be an opportunity for Parliamentarians to hear evidence from an important piece of research recently published by the Campaign for Dignity in Dying. The research is entitled The True Cost: How the UK outsources death to Dignitas. This important new research was launched in November of 2017.
According to Sarah Wotton, the Chief Executive of the Campaign for Dignity in Dying, the new research “exposes how damaging our current law is for dying people and their loved ones.”
In the published research, nineteen people gave their personal account of trying to achieve choice at the end of life. As Sarah Wotton further comments: “Individually these stories are moving, together they form the most robust and compelling case for change we’ve seen to date. We need every decision-maker in the country to be aware of how damaging our current law is”.
Dignitas is a Swiss non-profit members’ society providing assisted/accompanied suicide to those members of the organisation who suffer from terminal illness and/or severe physical and/or mental illnesses. Based in Zurich, the organisation is supported by qualified Swiss doctors.
In the UK it is currently illegal to assist someone to die. As a result, many people travel to Switzerland to arrange an assisted death.
All MPs have been invited to the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee for Choice at the end of life on January 15. The nature of this meeting is, therefore, one that I would expect a significant number of MPs to prioritize – despite their busy timetables. It is surely incumbent on all MPs to consider all viewpoints and not just their personal views or those of their political party. This is an important aspect of our parliamentary system.
Furthermore, as a member of the Campaign for Dignity in Dying, I believe that this meeting is a crucial one for all MPs to attend. I do so for the following reasons:
  • It will provide an opportunity to hear about recent research (as contained in the above  -mentioned report) of the experience of those who have travelled abroad for an assisted death.
  • There will be the opportunity to ask questions, respond to the research and hear first-hand from some of those with experience of travelling to Switzerland.
Amongst other things, the research to be presented will show that:
  • One British person travels to Dignitas to die every 8 days.
  • Two thirds of Britons would consider helping a terminally ill loved one to travel to Switzerland for an assisted death.
  • The cost of an assisted death in Switzerland is, on average, £10,000. This denies the option to the majority of people in the UK.
  • Instead, terminally ill people are taking matters into their own hands by attempting to end their lives in unenviable circumstances.
  • This is despite the UK having some of the best ranked palliative care in the world.
As a former minister of religion, I have personally experienced a number of persons, including my own mother, who have died from long, painful and debilitating illnesses. For such persons and where requested an assisted dying would have been merciful, humane and loving. To my great regret this is presently not an option in the UK.
Surely, it should be considered of the utmost importance that suffering souls can choose when to die and to do so in their own country and not as strangers in another? It was this strength of feeling that motivated me to write to my MP that he attend the meeting of the All-Party Group for Choice at the end of life on January 15, 2018.
It may well be that my MP does not share my views on the matter under discussion and parliamentary review – it would not be the first time in my experience of my constituency! However, if such is the case, it is important that, as my parliamentary representative, the MP concerned at least attends a meeting where my views are expressed by others.
After all, it is not as if the purpose of the gathering of MPs in Committee Room 15 – to become more and better informed about The True Cost: How the UK outsources death to Dignitas – is unimportant!



About stewculbard

I am a retired secondary school teacher of Humanities, having spent a major portion of my working life as a Minister of Religion with the Baptist denomination. I would now describe myself as a secular humanist and a socialist. I am married to Vicky and we have three children - two sons and a married daughter - all of whom are in their thirties. Formerly of Melbourne, Australia, we are all now living in England. My academic studies have been undertaken in Australia, the UK and the USA. I have a doctorate in religious studies from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. In retirement I enjoy reading, listening to classical music and writing. I am a member of Republic, Sea of Faith, Dignity in Dying Campaign and the National Secular Society. As well, I have a subscription to a number of cultural and political associations, including Amnesty International and, as a committed European, The Federal Trust.
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