This is the heartbreaking moment a terminally ill woman broke down in tears as she asked her stepson to look after her husband and her son before heading to Dignitas in ITV‘s new documentary about assisted dying.
In tonight’s A Time To Die, which airs at 10.45pm on ITV and ITVX, Kim Whiting, 55, explained why she was heading to the Swiss non-profit organisation where some 540 British citizens have been helped to end their lives.
The mother, who was born in Saigon during the Vietnam War, was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) less than a year ago.
When asked about her decision to travel to Dignitas, she said: ‘I’m quite sure because there’s no alternative. Because I am fed up with this life. With all the pain. My legs, my calves, my toes. Cause each day I feel bad. Getting worse. And that’s the only way to do it.’
In a heartwrenching moment during the programme, an emotional Kim was captured hugging her stepson Sean and telling him he was a ‘good boy’ after asking him to look after his father, Andy, and half-brother, Josh.
‘Sean, I am going to say this only once,’ Kim said. ‘Look after your dad for me, look after Josh as well… I am going to say the same to your dad. And to Josh.’
The emotional stepson replied: ‘You know I will,’ to which his stepmother responded: ‘You’re a good boy Sean.’
Kim’s husband Andy first met his wife in 1991 when she was studying chemistry at university in England. He was her lecturer before the pair started a relationship in 1993, after Kim had graduated.
‘We fell in love straight away,’ recalled Andy. ‘My son Sean and Kim became very close which has continued to this day. We were married in 1998, in 2003 our son Josh was born.’
But then in December, their world came crashing down when Kim was diagnosed with her terminal illness.
‘The first thing she said was I want to go to Dignitas and I have tried to be completely clear and honest with her and said, okay, but you can say no at any time. And we’ve always got the fall-back of palliative care,’ explained Andy.
‘I’ve tried to be planning that in parallel anyway because we just don’t know what’s going to happen right?’
The husband was then asked if he hoped Kim would want to take the palliative care route.
‘That’s a tough question. Yes of course. But at the same time, I don’t want to see her suffer. And if those are her wishes, it’s my responsibility to help her get there somehow.’
Kim’s son Josh also discusses his mother’s condition in the documentary, which follows the personal stories of individuals and their families in the UK as they prepare to end their lives at Dignitas.
Josh said: It’s losing someone’s self completely and you can actively see it happening.
‘From the way they smile, from the way they talk, they’re not in the same headspace and they never will be again, and you’ve lost someone who’s incredibly dear to you and you don’t know how much you’re going to lose each day and that’s terrifying.’
Kim also talked about her childhood in Vietnam in the documentary, recalling that it was ‘very painful’.
She said: ‘My childhood in Saigon was very painful. Because bombs were going off, bullets firing up in the dark sky, a booming sound and running under the bed for shelter.’
When Kim was 12 her parents paid traffickers to take the family to Hong Kong where they were abandoned.
‘I remember I was food poisoned. I got taken to hospital, and I wore no shoes, I was made to go barefooted.’ She eventually moved to England to study.
Made by Oscar, Emmy and BAFTA-winning director Jon Blair and BAFTA-winning producer Rachel Cumella, A Time To Die delves deep into the controversial issue of assisted dying.
Phil Newby, who is dying from motor neurone disease, said: ‘We are managing my way out of this life as best as possible.
‘There might be periods where you flatten out and stay stable for a while, but it is a one way road. Breathing. I can’t breathe lying down anymore.
‘I think the hospital has me a part way through respiratory failure, which isn’t very cheerful to read.’
Anyone who assists a suicide risks criminal prosecution with a sentence of up to 14 years in England and Wales.
Baroness Ilora Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine and strong opponent of changing the British Law said: ‘My own mother was very strongly in favour of euthanasia and when she was dying and we thought she had six weeks to live she was extremely angry with me that I had opposed it.
‘The hospice thought that she was going to be dead within a few weeks. She died four years later, not four to six weeks later.’
Over 425 million people around the world now have the right to some form of medically assisted suicide, yet many countries are still asking whether those suffering with terminal illness or incurable conditions should really have that choice, and if they did, what would be the consequences for vulnerable people who could potentially be at risk if the law is changed.
With access to Dignitas in Switzerland, the programme follows the personal stories of individuals and their families in the UK as they prepare to end their lives.
A Time To Die is on tonight at 10.45pm on ITV and ITVX