Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Ross: Dying treated worse than dogs

Geraldine McClelland condemned the 'cowardice of politicians' which forced her to spend her last hours away from home (PA/ Dignity in Dying)

The UK would not treat a dog as badly as it treated a woman who was forced to spend her final hours away from home after travelling to Switzerland to die, former BBC Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross has said.

Former TV producer Geraldine McClelland, 61, who was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer, called for a change to the law after travelling to a Dignitas clinic in Zurich where she died on Wednesday.

In a letter published hours after her death, Ms McClelland said she was not sad, but "angry that because of the cowardice of our politicians I can't die in the country I was born in, in my own home".

Ross, who was friends with Ms McClelland after working with her on Crimewatch, said: "We wouldn't treat a dog so badly."

He said: "Like Gerry, I take it to be self-evident that people facing imminent death should be allowed to manage the means and time of their departure.

"Yet Britain is so primitive and dichotomist in its thinking that suicide is only acceptable when one has what is normally a transient motive like depression. It is legal when able-bodied but not when someone is so ill they need assistance."

Writing for the Dignity in Dying blog, he went on: "It is permissible when causing terrible distress to others, such as throwing oneself in front of a moving train, but not when done in hospital with those you love beside you and with the help of willing and caring clinicians who are used to seeing death.

"Instead Gerry had to abandon her home and her country and be driven across Europe (she was too sick to fly and needed oxygen) to end her life in a light commercial estate in an impersonal Swiss suburb."

He added: "It sometimes seems that each concession to freedom in this country has had to be dragged out of a reluctant and controlling instinct that someone else knows best."

Ross acknowledged the need for strong protections, but said: "The principle is clear: self-determination is at the core of any concept of human rights. Just as no doctor or nurse should be obliged to have a hand in something they find morally objectionable, so no brave soul like Gerry should be abandoned to die at the choosing and timing of uncontrollable cancer."

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