‘Unlike Dame Esther, I’m thankful assisted suicide is not legal in the UK’

Proper legal safeguards are “vital” to protect the vulnerable from the temptation to “choose an early death”, a man living with Motor Neurone Disease has warned.

Writing to The Guardian, Michael Wenham expressed “real reservations” about any proposals to remove end-of-life protections for those with “a prolonged incurable disease”.

His letter was prompted by news that former TV presenter Dame Esther Rantzen has said she will travel to Switzerland to end her life at the Dignitas clinic if her cancer treatment is unsuccessful.

‘Quality of life’

Responding to Rantzen, Mr Wenham reflected: “I well remember the day when, after a year of tests, the consultant confirmed that I had ‘a motor neurone disorder’.”

Life, he confessed, “seemed bleak”, as he “anticipated one last Christmas” with his family.

I am grateful that, thanks to the law, I couldn’t be tempted to choose an early death on my first frightening diagnosis

But the former Church of England Vicar continued: “Twenty-two years later, I’m still alive and able to find hope and fulfilment in my very restricted life.

“Day to day, I’m totally dependent on my wife and carer from dressing to bedtime. I occasionally have falls, choke when swallowing, and my speech is barely intelligible. However, my quality of life is enhanced by a team of health professionals who are excellent in this area.”


Looking to the future, Wenham said: “I don’t wish to hasten my death, and I am grateful that, thanks to the law, I couldn’t be tempted to choose an early death on my first frightening diagnosis.

“As it should, the law provides a vital safeguarding function.”

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee is due to report on its inquiry into assisted suicide in the coming months.

Holyrood is also set to consider Liam McArthur MSP’s Assisted Dying Bill, and in the Republic of Ireland an Oireachtas Joint Committee is scrutinising a Bill from Gino Kenny TD, which proposes allowing doctors to administer lethal drugs to some patients.

Also see:

Majority of UK doctors would not facilitate assisted suicide

Challenging assisted suicide: ‘We must care for those who are suffering, not end their lives’

‘Don’t turn doctors into death givers’, Oireachtas committee warned

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