Great Gransden dad backing calls for assisted dying, but what do you think?
- Credit: Archant
James Catmur will be travelling to Switzerland to have an assisted death: WHAT DO YOU THINK? Take part in our poll
A Great Gransden man, who has made preparations to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland to have an assisted death has added his support to a new national campaign calling for an urgent review into the UK's assisted dying laws.
James Catmur, 59, from Great Gransden, has multiple sclerosis and witnessed his wife Helen's death at the age of 57 from motor neurone disease in 2016.
He has now backed a campaign calling for the review of the existing legislation in the country, which means that in the United Kingdom assisting or even encouraging somebody to commit suicide is a criminal offence, and those encouraging can be prosecuted.
This comes after MP's debated the topic at a Westminster Hall debate on Thursday, the same week that the Parliament of the Isle of Man is also discussing assisted dying.
During the debate, Kevin Hollinrake Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton said: "If I was faced with a terminal illness that I did not want to go through, I would happily choose for my life to be ended through the relevant medical procedures. However, I would not want to commit suicide, because I would not want my children to think that their father had committed suicide; I would not want them to live with that. So I think there is a complete difference between these two different ways of someone ending their life."
Ending the debate, Christine Jardine the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman said: "We have a duty to consider this issue, and to reflect on what the public might want and what the law might be."
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The campaign by Dignity in Dying, Compassion is Not a Crime, is also backed by Ann Whaley, Mavis Eccleston and others who have been criminalised by current laws.
The campaign calls on the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, to launch an inquiry into functioning and impact of the current legislation. Assisted dying is banned under Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961, which states that a person found guilty of "assisting a suicide" can be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
James said: "Helen ended up lying in bed and only able to move her right hand and eyes; she spoke by typing into an iPad. She researched assisted dying in Switzerland but it was too late. In the end she stopped using the ventilator she had become dependent on to breathe. Three days later she died. On one level she was at peace, but the three months before that were absolutely miserable - she should have had the choice go to on her own terms.
"After what Helen went through, I've decided to plan my own death. I want to ensure that should my health deteriorate to a point where I am suffering unbearably and where a prolonged, distressing death is likely, I want to be able to take control. Because assisted dying is currently illegal in the UK, I have decided to join Dignitas. In total, it'll cost me about £10,000 if I decide to avail of their services.
"My children are totally supportive, but I must consider the fact that anyone who assists or accompanies me may be at risk of prosecution. The law as it stands is incredibly cruel on many levels, and it's time that MPs face up to this fact. I hope the Government launches a review into the current law as a matter of urgency."
Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: "Compassion should not be a crime, but under the UK's blanket ban on assisted dying, it is. Not only are dying people denied the right to die on their own terms, forcing them to resort to drastic measures at home and abroad, but their family members are then criminalised for acts of love.
"An inquiry would enable the views of those most affected to be heard - terminally ill people, their loved ones, the police and other public services. We call on the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, to launch a call for evidence as a matter of urgency. Our outdated assisted dying laws deserve to be scrutinised, not dying people or their loving families."