A man who wanted to die after being left paralysed by a rugby accident is now celebrating a first class law degree and a job at a top city firm.
He is one of several people with a disabled or terminal condition who are glad they didn’t end it all, and who now live a life of value and meaning.
Matt King, who was 17 at the time of the accident, suffered injuries to his spine which left him permanently paralysed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.
His case has been compared to the tragic death of Daniel James, another young man who suffered a debilitating rugby injury and committed suicide at the Dignitas facility in Switzerland.
Mr King said of his accident: “I knew I had broken my neck straight away”.
He added: “The paramedics were asking me to move my toes and I couldn’t. It was completely terrifying.”
“My first thought was ‘let me die’ because my vision of what my life would be like was awful.
“But I realised in hospital that I’m still young and if I was going to lead a meaningful life I would need to get an education.”
Speaking against plans to legalise assisted suicide, disability rights campaigner Baroness Campbell said: “A change in the law based on the assumption that some lives are more valuable and worthwhile than others would alter the mindset of the medical and social care professions, persuading more and more people that actually the prospect of an ‘easy’ way out is what people such as me really want.”
Lady Campbell added: “Those of us who are disabled or ill are as fully human as any other citizen. We very often still have a remarkable contribution to make.”
Mr King said his nine months in a Spinal Injuries Centre was “such a bleak time” and said he “decided to do as much as I could when I got out of hospital.”
Mr King continued: “I had to think what I could do as effectively as before. In law, you only need to use your brain.”
Mr King achieved a first class law degree from Hertfordshire University.
He has been offered a training contract with a London law firm which he is due to start in 2011, after he finishes a legal practice course at the university.
He has two full-time carers and a ‘scribe’ who takes notes for him during lectures.
His mother said: “We are very proud of him – he never fails to amaze us with what he’s going to do next.”
Mr King is a mentor for the Back-Up Trust, a charity helping those with spinal cord injuries.
Mr King’s positive attitude to life is similar to that of Matt Hampson, a former rugby player who also incurred a rugby injury and is paralysed from the neck down.
With the help of carers and a custom-built house, Mr Hampson has been able to set up a website, has written an autobiography and is patron of a charity for disabled children called SpecialEffect.
He said last year: “I don’t live a bad life, I live a different life. I use my brain more than my brawn now. It has helped me become a more rounded person. I think about things more.
“I’ve had to grow up quite a bit and do things that most 23-year-olds don’t do.”