Dignity in death

Everyone deserves a dignified death. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

For more and more Brits it has meant a peaceful death at the time of their choosing at Dignitas in Switzerland. Last year one Brit went there every eight days.

I recently met two of my constituents whose partners were suffering from terminal illnesses and wished to end their lives at Dignitas.

Their experiences couldn’t have been more different.

James Howley’s partner Helen was able to get the medical documents she needed to allow her the peaceful death she wanted.

But Julie Smith’s husband Paul could not access the medical letter required by the Swiss authorities because his doctor was concerned about falling foul of the law.

No doctor should be put in that position: having to choose between granting their dying patient’s wish or facing possible investigation.

What makes this story so strange is that Helen and Paul both attended the same GP surgery in West Bromwich.

Two people, facing similar challenges at the end of their lives, had totally different deaths – one dignified, one undignified and painful.

All because the law regarding helping patients go to Dignitas is a grey area.

It’s not often you have such a clear demonstration of a situation that is not working, unfair and devastating for those involved.

When this issue came to Parliament nearly three years ago MPs didn’t agree that the law should change.

I was among those not convinced by the arguments. Hearing James and Julie’s stories has changed my mind.