Cruel law means I have to go to Dignitas to die

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Roberta Tupper, of Grouville, was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer just over three years ago.

Doctors told her then that the disease had spread to her bones and brain, and she was given six months to live.

She underwent successful surgery to remove the brain tumour at Southampton General Hospital. Copious courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy have followed and the treatment has helped prolong her life.

However, she was told last month that the cancer had grown by ten per cent since her previous scan, and she remains determined to end her life at a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where assisted dying is legal.

‘I actually made the decision to opt for an assisted death in Switzerland right from the start,’ said Roberta, who is paying an annual Dignitas membership.

‘Both my parents died of cancer and I was at home beside my father who had lung cancer for his last three months – it was horrific.’

Both euthanasia and assisted dying are illegal in the British Isles.

Unlike in cases of euthanasia, where the physician administers the lethal dose, Swiss doctors at Dignitas do not administer the lethal dose directly to the patient.

Instead, a cup of poison is placed on a table beside the terminally-ill person, and it is up to them whether they drink it or not.

‘I don’t have the courage to jump over a cliff and I could ask someone to push me off a cliff, but that would incriminate them,’ Roberta added.

‘I’ve considered all the options and an assisted death is the only way for me to die with dignity.’

In the UK, under the Suicide Act 1961, anyone helping or encouraging someone to end their life could face up to 14 years in prison.

In Jersey, assisting someone with their death is classed as a customary law offence, which means the court is free to determine what it considers to be an appropriate sentence.

‘These laws are inhumane and barbaric,’ said Roberta, who has four grown-up children and seven grandchildren.

‘It’s outrageous that nothing has been done [to legalise assisted dying in the British Isles] and that people who can’t afford to travel to Switzerland have to commit suicide or wait for death to come in a hospice, or at home.

‘You wouldn’t let your animals suffer like this – you would go to the vet and get them put down painlessly. But by forbidding assisted dying, they [the authorities] are treating people disrespectfully and expecting them to undergo even more suffering than our pets.’

Next month, the States of Guernsey is due to debate a proposal to introduce a law which – if passed by their politicians – would allow terminally ill people to end their life in the island in an assisted setting.

However, the British Medical Association officially opposes assisted dying and Guernsey’s local branch has warned it could lead to problems recruiting and retaining doctors there.

Roberta – who questions whether that would be the case – said she has not discussed her situation with politicians, but added: ‘I would do anything to bring this issue forward.

‘And I would ask people to consider when you vote in the upcoming Jersey election if your candidate is pro assisted dying.

‘We’ve got acceptance of homosexuality, acceptance of gay marriages and everything’s changed.

‘This law has to change too – it’s archaic and cruel.’

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