British woman, 45, with terminal breast cancer fast-tracks plan to die at Dignitas due to lockdown

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A 45-year-old British woman with terminal breast cancer has fast-tracked plans to end her life at a Swiss euthanasia clinic this week, fearing she will otherwise be forced to endure ‘an agonising, protracted death’ due to the UK’s ban on assisted dying and impending lockdown.

The woman, who until her diagnosis was a senior mental health professional in the NHS, has been granted a special waiver by the Swiss government allowing her to travel to her hotel and on to her final appointment at Dignitas, near Zürich, without having to self-isolate for 10 days. 

In the UK, assisted suicide is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. 

A 45-year-old British woman has revealed she has fast-tracked plans to end her life at Dignitas in Switzerland, due to the UK's ban on assisted dying and impending coronavirus restrictions

A 45-year-old British woman has revealed she has fast-tracked plans to end her life at Dignitas in Switzerland, due to the UK’s ban on assisted dying and impending coronavirus restrictions

Revealing her heartbreaking plight in The Sunday Times today, she said that she feared delaying any further would ‘jeopardise’ her intentions and that due to Coronavirus restrictions her plans had been brought forward earlier than anticipated.

She said: ‘I feel I must go now, before I am truly ready,’ adding that like those who had died from Covid-19, she is ‘being forced to die in the presence of strangers, in unfamiliar surroundings, without my husband, family or friends to comfort me,’ due to ‘antiquated laws.’

Describing her physical condition, the woman revealed that she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer last September, which was already stage four and had spread to her lymph nodes. 

In August, she learned that the cancer had spread to her liver and that she did not have long to live. 

She describes her state as being ‘in considerable pain’ despite taking the maximum dose of morphine available and suffers from extreme fatigue and nausea.

The woman described the 'cruelty' of choosing between her loved ones and a 'peaceful' death

The woman described the ‘cruelty’ of choosing between her loved ones and a ‘peaceful’ death

The woman acknowleged that she would eventually die from blood poisoning, suffocation or, her greatest fear, from strokes due to cancerous tumours in her brain, a scenario that she said ‘tormented’ her.

Is Assisted Suicide illegal in Britain? 

Under the Suicide Act 1961, anyone helping or encouraging someone to take their own life in England or Wales can be prosecuted and jailed for up to 14 years if found guilty of an offence.

Section two of the act states that a person commits an offence if they carry out an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, and the act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide.

In 2015 MPs including former prime minister David Cameron rejected a Bill to legalise assisted dying.

Opposition to changing the law has come from faith groups, campaigners who say disabled people may feel pressured to end their lives and campaigners who fear assisted dying would become a business.

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She added that she is not suicidal, rather she ‘desperately wants to live’, but as this is not an option she is seeking a death that is ‘peaceful’, albeit one that will separate her from loved ones due to the UK’s ban on assisted dying. 

The woman described the ‘cruelty’ of the situation and said that within the medical profession the issue is considered taboo.

She said: ‘When I have attempted to speak openly about what I feel is a perfectly rational desire to avoid a traumatic death, I have been met by a wall of silence from doctors.  

‘To go from being a senior clinical leader to feeling silenced and patronised by people who were once my peers has hurt me deeply.’

She went on to add that many terminally ill people with cancer are ‘in effect disenfranchised’, because they are too unwell to speak out, while the option of assisted death abroad is not available to all at a cost of £12,000.    

The woman’s experience emerged as nearly 50 senior doctors are today calling for an inquiry into the ban on assisted dying in Britain.

The move comes just days after New Zealand voted to make assisted dying legal for terminally ill people.

Other countries passing similar laws include Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, Holland and parts of the US and Australia.

Last month, a survey also found that 50 per cent of British doctors believe there should be a change in the law to allow helping patients to die.

The largest survey to date of British medics’ views on assisted dying found half supported the change to allow the prescription of life-ending drugs.

A recent survey of British medics¿ views on assisted dying found half supported allowing the prescription of life-ending drugs

A recent survey of British medics’ views on assisted dying found half supported allowing the prescription of life-ending drugs

The results could pave the way for the UK’s largest doctors’ union to drop its long-standing opposition to assisted dying – its position since 2006.

Four years ago the British Medical Association rejected a motion to adopt a more neutral position on the issue. 

But the latest survey of its members found just 39 per cent are personally opposed to a change in the law, with 11 per cent undecided.

However, when it came to being prepared to actively participate in prescribing drugs which would lead to someone’s death, just 36 per cent said they would be willing, compared with 45 per cent who wouldn’t.

The union said the results of the survey of almost 29,000 medics and students will not determine BMA policy but will be discussed in a debate at its annual meeting next year. 

For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details 

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