A small gathering in the coffee lounge of a Plymouth hotel last Friday was a surprisingly stimulating experience, considering the topic of shared interest was how to get killed off quickly when the time comes.
Horrabridge councillor Christine Edmondson invited the Horrabridge Times along to a meeting of half a dozen regional supporters of the campaign group The Right To Die With Dignity UK – the UK arm of an international lobby. There are similar organisations but they differ a little on tactics and this is the one Christine chose to get involved with.
The Plymouth meeting was a chance to meet its leader, Vincent Alexander, a persuasive Lancastrian with an honourable history as a trade unionist, fresh from picking up a Hero award from Best magazine for bravery and inspiration under his blogging name, Alex Pandolfo.
He is living with a diagnosis of dementia, having watched his father die with it and his mother reduced to a shell by a combination of illnesses.
Chris Edmondson has been skating just ahead of cancer for some time and is often fighting for breath, with a lung tumour which can’t be got out and could turn malignant any time. She was in hospital this week but expecting to be back at home by the time this is published.
At least three of the others were at the Plymouth meeting partly because of their experiences in care work. All of us had stories to tell about family members who should have gone peacefully rather than being kept alive by all that medicine can do.
The “living will”, a legally enforceable objection to too much intervention by doctors, is an increasingly popular idea and advice on how to get one registered is part of the campaign’s work. It also advises on how to die voluntarily in a Swiss clinic – Dignitas is only the most famous of several and Vincent has chosen one called Lifecircle because it offers a more comfortable way to take a fatal dose of barbiturates. But it will cost at least £8,000 and he wants the same service made legal, affordable and available, to all who need it in this country.
Switzerland is not the only country which has legalised assisted dying, just the most open to Brits. The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Colombia, India and some US states, are already there and it has been going on in Switzerland for 50 years, without any scandalous misconduct being discovered yet.
An organisation called My Death, My Decision has done most of the court work which has made headlines in recent years and has established some rights for the individual within existing law. But Vincent says a full solution needs political movement and most MPs are still nervous on the issue. He is getting some union backing, however, and sees some hope of a first move from Scotland, where he works with an organisation called FATE – Friends At The End.
Chris Edmondson buttonholed local MP Geoffrey Cox on the matter in Horrabridge two years ago and he said he had always sided with the view that assisted dying was against God’s will. He promised to think on what Christine said but she has heard nothing futher from him and would welcome some local support when she tries him again.
Vincent’s view is that God’s will has been made difficult to discern by the medical supplies business and by lawyers who make doctors frightened to decide that enough is enough, even when patients and families ask for it.
He commented: “I need at least 32 tablets and two inhalers a day and none of them will save me. It has been said that the pharmaceutical industdry does not make cures, it makes customers. And I have come to believe that it is one of the obstacles to our cause. The money the pill suppliers make from care homes would be better spent on proper training and proper wages for proper staffing.”
His Facebook site can be found at
He and Christine will take questions and the Horrabridge Times would welcome a discussion here. Please use the Comment box or email firstname.lastname@example.org/