I am writing to you to express my opposition to the legalisation of assisted suicide as Baroness Meacher’s bill comes before the Lords next week. You might be interested to read a previous Guardian article of mine on this topic here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jun/15/choosing-to-die-terry-pratchett.
I well remember the day when, after a year of tests, the consultant confirmed that I had ‘a motor neurone disorder’. I knew what that meant as it was the year that Diane Pretty’s case to allow her husband to help her commit suicide as she had MND was hitting the headlines as it went through the courts. I asked the doctor how long he thought I had left of life. ‘Everyone is different. Let’s wait and see,’ was his reply. The prospects were bleak. I anticipated my last Christmas with my family.
In the event, my worst fears were not realised and my diagnosis was refined to Primary Lateral Sclerosis, a slowly developing form of MND. Twenty years later, I’m still alive and able to find hope and fulfilment in my very restricted life. Day to day, I’m totally dependent on my wife and carer from dressing to bedtime. My quality of life is enhanced by a team of health professionals who are excellent in this area, and by the local MNDA branch.
My mobility, speech and well-being are gradually deteriorating. Looking ahead, I don’t wish to hasten my death and I am glad I didn’t respond to the initial fear which might have made me seek euthanasia and which the advocates of assisted dying seem keen to exacerbate.
I prefer to listen to those more qualified to comment on the end stages of MND:
‘The final stages of MND will usually involve gradual weakening of the breathing muscles and increasing sleepiness. This is usually the cause of death, either because of an infection or because the muscles stop working.
‘Specialist palliative care supports quality of life through symptom control. practical help, medication to ease symptoms and emotional support for you and your family… In the majority of cases, death with MND is peaceful and dignified’
(MNDA ‘How will I die?’: https://www.mndassociation.org/app/uploads/2015/07/EOL5-How-will-I-die-2018.pdf).
So relying on a variety of mechanical aids, such as a lift, wheelchairs, and a laptop, and on my wife/carer/driver, I am still able to enjoy my limited life – and grateful that I wasn’t able to be tempted to opt for euthanasia on my first frightening diagnosis.
Please see the following links about my story: