This time last year our little family of five became four. On 5th July 2017 my sister, Jemima, ended her life at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland called Dignitas. J was 46 at the time.
Five of us flew to Switzerland and only four came home, the return journey was undoubtedly the worst flight of my life.
Jemima didn't take the decision to have an assisted suicide lightly. To live or to die, there is no bigger decision to make and for J it took over a decade of discussion and debate to truly work it through in her mind.
It had been a torrid time for Jemima, she had suffered with debilitating degenerative illnesses which had slowly eaten away at both her health and quality of life over 17 long years. MS, ME, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis – the list goes on.
During her life she had gone from a dive master living life to the full in the Cayman Islands to a disabled person, bed-bound with a catheter and full-time carers.
Jemima took over 50 pills and potions every day and she was still not able to manage her pain – it was constant. But it was the MS nurse saying to Jemima that she wouldn't be able to do anything more to help manage the tremors that prompted her into action.
Although Jemima had been talking about Dignitas for over a decade, somehow it still came as an enormous shock to me. I had been dreading that moment but it was the determination in her voice that shook me to the core.
I honestly don't know how she lived that life for so long, but in spite of her illnesses, Jemima managed to keep her spirits up.
J was endlessly loving and interested in other people, bright and questioning and she had a realistic but positive outlook on life. That might seem like a contradiction in terms for someone who wanted to take her own life but it was true.
In fact, over the last few months of her life, I can honestly say I hadn't seen her that positive, happy and energised for decades.
Jemima wanted to be in control of her death, so for her receiving a date to die from Dignitas was a huge relief. She was honestly thrilled to be given back the control over her body; to be able to choose her death was a basic human right for Jemima.
Jemima told me that if she had been able to have an assisted death in the UK, she would not have gone when she did. So I know if it wasn't for the UK laws, J would still be with us now and that breaks my heart.
J was terrified of her illnesses declining to the point when she wouldn't be able to make the journey across the UK to Switzerland unassisted. For the girl who hadn't been in a car for longer that two hours in over 15 years, that journey was a deeply terrifying concept.
The current UK laws prohibit friends or family members from assisting suicide, which includes planning the journey, and Jemima didn't want to implicate us in her death. So J had to be able to intricately plan and endure the trip to Switzerland without our help.
Jemima wrestled for many years over her decision; when does the risk of declining health outweigh the quality of life? It's a calculated risk I hope I never have to take.
As it turns out, J was very risk averse and she decided to die much earlier than she actually needed to. Jemima told me that if she had been able to have an assisted death in the UK, she would not have gone when she did. So I know if it wasn't for the UK laws, J would still be with us now and that breaks my heart.
The ambiguity surrounding the current law also leaves people and organisations unsure about what they can or cannot publish on the internet about assisted suicide or Dignitas. The fear is that any information published could be perceived to be 'assisting'. It's a law that drives polar opposite behaviour to the way the world works in today's social media age.
For my sister and our family that meant we were not able to find any useful information to help us to prepare for what we were about to experience. There was literally nothing helpful about how the law would be interpreted and applied, what would happen at Dignitas or the police process we would go through on our return.
None of the people in authority were clear about their roles, which layered on the stress. My mother's doctor consulted his lawyers to see if he should report us when we described why we weren't sleeping. All we wanted was some sleeping pills to see us though to J's allotted death day.
Our family lawyer even advised us that there were big risks if we accompanied Jemima. And to top it off on our return, the police team didn't know what process they should follow to investigate us.
The whole experience was shrouded in mystery. Consequently, in the months running up to Jemima's death that intense feeling of concern and anxiety was omnipresent. From a personal perspective it meant that I felt woefully unprepared for what I went on to experience. It's cruel to add additional stress into an already distressing grief-fuelled situation.
That's why since J died, I have been campaigning for a change in the UK laws to give citizens the right to choose an assisted death here at home. I think we should have a regulated and safeguarded process to protect the vulnerable and I believe it should be complimented by an effective palliative care system.
One person travels to Dignitas every eight days from the UK . That can't be right. To me it feels like we are outsourcing death.
Dignitas is only available to those people like J, who can afford the eye-watering £10k fees. The rest have to remain at home in varied states of declining ill health and to die in a manner not in line with their wishes. Some people in desperation take their life at home, on their own, without either safeguards or surety that it will work.
J had three failed suicide attempts under her belt, each time negatively impacting her health conditions but somehow surviving. I've also heard stories about other people's family members aiding in the suicide – breaking the law and putting their liberty at risk.
Successive governments have been ignoring the issue. They are desperate to avoid voting on a subject like assisted suicide, which they perceive puts their reelection at risk.
They are ignoring the statistic that 82% of the population favour a change in the law . Politicians won't accept that the current processes are fractured. People in the UK wanting an assisted death today are exposed and vulnerable, our doctors, healthcare workers and police are woefully untrained and under-prepared.
I have set up a campaign group in south London, so if you have suffered under this legislation or want to support the campaign to change the assisted dying laws in the UK, then please reach out to me. You can read more about our journey on my blog https://20past12.wordpress.com
For more information on other Dignity in Dying groups across the UK please visit https://www.dignityindying.org.uk/take-action/
Now it's time for the government to listen up and take action.
Sign Up for News Updates
Get your need-to-know latest news, feel-good stories, analysis and more
Not convinced? Find out more »
- Supernatural Spins Off Its Wayward Sisters, and It Couldn’t Come at a Better Time
- Cardi B’s sister may have just accidentally revealed the sex of her baby
- Alia Bhatt's sister Shaheen Bhatt opens up about her battle with depression and her new book
- John C. Reilly On How ‘The Sisters Brothers’ Subverts the Western
- Williams Sisters Lose Olympic Women's Doubles Match For First Time In History
- Down to the wire! Tiffany Trump posts a sweet childhood photo of herself at the Thanksgiving Day parade with big sister Ivanka to wish her a happy 38th birthday – MINUTES before midnight
- Louis Tomlinson enjoys family day out after tragic death of 18 year old sister Félicité
- Sengoku Three Sisters Shrine, Fukui
- Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland: A Tale of Two Sisters
- Arielle Kebbel's Sister Reveals Disappearance Took Place During "Psychotic Break"
- Olly Murs and Brian McFadden lead tributes to Louis Tomlinson’s sister Félicité after she dies from ‘heart attack’
- Ed Henry: I’m becoming a liver donor for the sister I love, so she can live a long and healthy life
- Sisterly rivalry: Lynn Shelton directs Blunt and DeWitt in improvised romantic triangle
- Spins Off Its Wayward Sisters, and It Couldn’t Come at a Better Time
- Don Lemon Makes Emotional TV Return After Sister's Death
- Mark Wright flashes £1,600 ticket to Tyson Fury fight where he took glamorous sisters Jess and Natalya for Los Angeles night out
- Lefty sisters leading Canyon Crest girls tennis team
- CNN Slammed For Glowing Article on Kim Jong Un’s Sister: ’She’s Starving Her Country to Death’
- Supergirl Already Has Big Plans For James' Sister (As Alex's New Love Interest?)
- Charmed Reboot Casts Madeleine Mantock As Third Sister
I took my sister to Dignitas have 1628 words, post on metro.co.uk at July 12, 2018. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.