Widower gives assisted dying bill his full support

Dr Ann McPherson pictured on her retirement in 2008 with her husband Klim and grandchildren Sonny, then aged six, Alma, 20 months, and Josie, eight

Dr Ann McPherson pictured on her retirement in 2008 with her husband Klim and grandchildren Sonny, then aged six, Alma, 20 months, and Josie, eight

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Health reporter, also covering Kidlington. Call me on 01865 425271

THE widower of a city GP who campaigned for the right to die has welcomed a Bill to legalise assisted dying.

Klim McPherson said Lord Falconer’s Bill – making its way through the House of Lords – was important to establish the principle of legalising assisted dying.

But the Bishop of Oxford the Rt Rev John Pritchard warned the Bill could see “vulnerable” people “manipulated”.

Mr McPherson lost his wife-of-43 years Ann – with whom he had three children – to pancreatic cancer aged 65 in May 2011.

She founded Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying to encourage medics to back the cause.

The Private Member’s bill, which is unlikely to win Government support, would let doctors give “competent adults” with less than six months to live a lethal dose.

Mr McPherson, 72, said: “The point is to get the principle established.

Oxford Mail:

Klim McPherson 

“People don’t have to live in fear of having a terrible death and they can do something about it of their own choice.”

A previous Lords bid, by Lord Joffe, was blocked in the House in 2006.

But Mr McPherson – a public health professor at the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology – said: “That didn’t get passed because the press were totally opposed. Now they are not totally opposed.”

Dr McPherson worked in North Oxford for 35 years and said in her final days: “If I had the choice there is no question I would prefer to be dead because I feel so ill.”

Her husband said: “It was awful.

“She was so brave. She stuck with it as if it was her problem.”

Bishop John said: “Why is this Bill flawed? First because the possibility of influencing, persuading or manipulating a vulnerable or depressed person to choose death are too great.

Oxford Mail:

Bishop John

“Second because the Dutch experience is that it opens the door to a seriously dangerous extension of the circumstances in which assisted dying can take place.

“Third because it fundamentally changes the doctor-patient relationship which is based on a presumption of help to live not help to die.

“Fourth because all the major medical organisations are against it.

“Fifth because investment in palliative medical care is a much better option. It all says to me: ‘Don’t go there’.”

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith welcomed the debate and said: “I really do worry about bringing about a culture where vulnerable or elderly people might feel they are a burden and under some obligation to opt for assisted dying.”

Other county MPs did not respond to a request for comment.

THE BILL

THE Bill is for “competent adults” with a “clear and settled intention” to end their life.

They must be diagnosed as terminally ill and be “reasonably expected to die within six months”.

The person would sign a declaration countersigned by two doctors and only they could take the lethal medicine.

A doctor must be satisifed they have the “capacity” to make the decision in line with the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

It says a person who “provides any assistance in accordance with this Act shall not be guilty of an offence”.

Any declaration “with the intention of causing the death of another person” faces life imprisonment.

PM David Cameron has said he is not “convinced” by the change.
Without Government backing, MPs are unlikely to get a chance to debate it and to make it law.

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Comments (1)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

9:26am Wed 6 Aug 14

Scott Nelson says...

During my 16 years in England, I spent three years (1995-98) working as a caregiver – living with and caring for several elderly people suffering from advanced dementia. I saw first-hand how this disease leaves its victims trapped in a truly terrifying, living hell – with no way out except fading slowly and somewhat agonizingly into a merciful death. I often felt my charges were closer to anxious zombies than human beings – and did often wonder about the ethics of prolonging life as long as possible under those circumstances.

My time as a carer left me decidedly unwilling to experience that kind of ‘life’ myself. As such, I can say hand on heart that the day I’m diagnosed with dementia is the day I start making moves to check out. When it comes that kind of illness, I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.

Perhaps we should be a little more like Latin America – where people appear to embrace and celebrate death rather than attempting to ignore it and lock it away behind closed doors, as westerners seem inclined to do?

Raising awareness

This year, I self-published The Carer, a short e-novel based on my time as a live-in geriatric nurse. Described as a “gritty urban thriller with a social conscience”, The Carer offers a “Faustian tale of elder abuse, patricide by proxy and the corrosive effects of power.” You can buy The Carer for USD0.99 from Amazon and all other major ebook retailers.

Scott Nelson
Halifax, Nova Scotia
During my 16 years in England, I spent three years (1995-98) working as a caregiver – living with and caring for several elderly people suffering from advanced dementia. I saw first-hand how this disease leaves its victims trapped in a truly terrifying, living hell – with no way out except fading slowly and somewhat agonizingly into a merciful death. I often felt my charges were closer to anxious zombies than human beings – and did often wonder about the ethics of prolonging life as long as possible under those circumstances. My time as a carer left me decidedly unwilling to experience that kind of ‘life’ myself. As such, I can say hand on heart that the day I’m diagnosed with dementia is the day I start making moves to check out. When it comes that kind of illness, I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. Perhaps we should be a little more like Latin America – where people appear to embrace and celebrate death rather than attempting to ignore it and lock it away behind closed doors, as westerners seem inclined to do? Raising awareness 
This year, I self-published The Carer, a short e-novel based on my time as a live-in geriatric nurse. Described as a “gritty urban thriller with a social conscience”, The Carer offers a “Faustian tale of elder abuse, patricide by proxy and the corrosive effects of power.” You can buy The Carer for USD0.99 from Amazon and all other major ebook retailers. Scott Nelson Halifax, Nova Scotia Scott Nelson
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