Assisted dying ban denied my husband and mother a good death2023-03-27
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The blanket ban on assisted dying is pushing terminally ill people to take their own lives in dangerous and distressing ways, a grieving widow has warned.
Zoe Hyatt-Marley saw both her mother and husband suffer with cancer before they took lethal doses of drugs.
She wants everyone to be given the right to “a good death” through a law granting those nearing the end of life the option of requesting medical assistance.
The Daily Express Give Us Our Last Rights crusade also calls for assisted dying to be legalised in certain circumstances.
Three generations of Zoe’s family once lived together under the same roof – Zoe and husband Andrew, their 28-year-old daughter Isabelle, and Zoe’s mother Judith.
When Judith was diagnosed with skin cancer, she made it immediately clear that she would not wait to succumb to the disease.
After her condition worsened, the 74-year-old former florist suffered from nausea, vomiting and headaches.
She took an overdose of medication in July 2018 and sat outdoors, clutching a photograph of herself and her mother. Zoe, 55, said: “When I found her unconscious in the garden I knew that she wanted to die.
“My husband was there and we didn’t know what to do. We thought: ‘Are we supporting a suicide by being inactive?’”
When it grew dark and the temperature dropped, an ambulance was called and Zoe found herself in a standoff with medics who wanted to take her mother to hospital.
The police were called but eventually a senior doctor ruled that as Judith was subject to a do not resuscitate order and Zoe had power of attorney, she should just be moved inside.
However, Judith survived the attempt and was “mentally devastated”, Zoe said. She tried again a month later and died, leading police to question Zoe for more than four hours.
Just 11 months later, the family was dealt another terrible blow when dentist Andrew was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer.
The disease had already spread to his liver and was incurable, triggering a quick decline in his health which robbed him of his dignity.
Zoe said her beloved partner of 29 years decided he wanted to die when he became bedridden and unable to use the toilet without help.
She recalled: “He was desperately unhappy and in pain. What he was going through was horrific. He needed it to stop.”
On their final day together in June 2021, Zoe put on her best dress and poured them each a glass of Krug champagne.
Then Andrew, 72, took an overdose of drugs and listened to his favourite Bruch violin concerto one last time before drifting off peacefully.
Zoe, of Norfolk, said the current laws prohibiting assisted dying were “very dangerous” and denied her family the chance to say a proper goodbye to Judith and Andrew.
She explained: “People are wanting to escape dreadfully drawn-out terminal illnesses and unfortunately they can’t do so safely.
“There is this idea that it’s going to be dangerous if we enable people to have an assisted death. I think it’s very dangerous the way things are now.
“The right to have a good death should be a human right.”
The Commons Health and Social Care Committee will today hold the first evidence session for its assisted dying inquiry.
It will hear from MPs who have led efforts to change the law, including Baroness Meacher, and end of life experts.
Zoe said it was “incredibly important” that the committee also hears personal accounts like hers. She added: “This is supposed to be a democracy and we want robust, safe laws. As users of the law, we need to be heard.
“Nobody can understand how the current law affects people more than those who are dying and the families watching them die.”
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