Death with dignity is about choice

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A PRO choice campaigner has spoken out in support of an Eastbourne pensioner’s decision to travel to a Swiss suicide clinic to end her life.

Earlier this month, a 91-year-old local woman teamed up with controversial former GP Michael Irwin to plan a trip to Dignitas because of the pain caused by her crippling arthritis and deteriorating eyesight.

Without any close family, the elderly lady would have been forced to make the 450-mile trip to Switzerland on her own had Mr Irwin not stepped in.

And that, according to Dignity in Dying lobbyist Dorothy Forsyth, is one of the reasons why the Government should be introducing new laws allowing people the right to end their life here in England.

The 84-year-old from Eastbourne said, “If people are terminally ill and have no hope of recovery and are in pain, then they ought to be able to terminate their own life.

“Take this old lady having to go all the way to Switzerland. t is not right.

“If she feels her quality of life is so poor she ought to be able to have a peaceful end to her life in this country, but the law does not permit it.”

Mrs Forsyth rejected claims from religious groups that only God should be able to make the choice of whether someone lives or dies.

“They say only God can take a life,” she said.

“But research shows the majority of people in this country now want this (assisted suicide) to be possible.

“Changing the law would only make it an option for people.

“Those who do not agree with it would not have to do it, but why should their beliefs prevent someone who does not share them from doing what they want?”

Another concern raised by pro choice campaigners is that families could put pressure on elderly relatives in order to hasten inheritance, or that sick people could take the suicide option rather than become a burden on their loved ones.

However, Dignity in Dying is pushing for stringent checks and a lengthy process before someone would eventually be allowed help to take their own life

At the route of its campaign is the belief that every individual should be given the chance and support to decide on their own futures – without having to travel abroad to do it.

That the service is currently available overseas presents its own logic regarding the legalisation of assisted suicide in the UK.

Dignity in Dying argue that with the UK ban, all the Government is doing is leaving a person’s right to self-determination down to the size of their bank balance and whether they have someone willing to travel with them.

Other campaigners warn that all the time people have to be well enough to make the trip unassisted, some will take the decision to travel to Dignitas before they necessarily would like to end their life.

But, according to Mrs Forsyth, one of the most appealing arguments behind her support for a shift in the law is the pressure it would relieve from those closest to the sufferers.

She added: “Some people turn to loved ones to ask them to help them end their life.

“That puts a lot of pressure on people and if they do help they can risk being prosecuted.

“We want a change in the law to allow people the choice.”