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Assisted dying: Man travelling to Switzerland to end his life says terminally ill have been ‘failed’ by UK law

Written by on 16 October 2021

A terminally ill man who is planning to travel to Switzerland to end his life within weeks has accused legislators of failing people on assisted dying laws.

David Peace, from London, can no longer speak and swallow after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019.

The 73-year-old receives nutrition through a tube in his stomach and fears choking to death every day.

Mr Peace, who communicates by text to voice software on his iPad, has said he is not suicidal but is being reluctantly forced to end his life prematurely so he can avoid “intolerable” suffering in future.

David Peace plans to travel to Switzerland to end his life before the year is out Image: The 73-year-old was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019

Due to the current laws in place, Mr Peace needs to travel abroad before his disease progresses to the extent that he cannot manage the journey or administer the medication.

He hopes to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland within the next two months to end his life.

Mr Peace said: “Reluctantly I’m being propelled to bring forward my death by the relentless attacks on my body, with no hope of relief or cure, and no legal or dignified remedy in Britain other than continual suffering with more and more pills, opiates and sedation, tubes into the throat and other intervention.

“If the law in the UK were different my life would be longer and my end of life would not entail the hassle and difficulty of international travel at the most vulnerable point in my life.”

Assisted dying is currently illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Assisted dying Image: Assisted dying is banned in England and Wales

But next week, a private member’s bill which would allow terminally ill adults to legally seek assistance to end their life will have its second reading in parliament.

The bill, if passed, would enable adults who are of sound mind and have six months to live or less to be given life-ending medication with the approval of two doctors and a High Court Judge.

It comes as around 74% of British people want parliament to back the bill, according to polling for the charity Dignity in Dying.

Separately, a YouGov survey of 1,733 adults earlier this month showed that 70% want to see assisted dying legalised by the next general election.

Mr Peace, from London, now receives nutrition through a tube into his stomach Image: Mr Peace, from London, now receives nutrition through a tube into his stomach

Mr Peace said the legislation is needed to “rectify the dire lack of choice and control” for people with terminal illnesses, and it would offer them “a true choice, not an obligation, with proper safeguards to protect against coercion or depression”.

A change in the law is “long overdue”, he said, adding: “Our legislators have failed us thus far.”

Baroness Meacher, who introduced the bill, said she is feeling “very optimistic” about its second reading, which will “transform people’s lives” if passed.

Baroness Meacher Image: Baroness Meacher introduced the Bill

The current situation is “incredibly unsafe and leads to incredible pain”, she said, with some terminally ill people starving themselves to death and “withering away”.

She said: “They should not have to go through the gruelling process, when they’re already having very limited capacity to move and so on, travelling all the way to Switzerland, dying in a foreign country, and their relatives then coming back on their own. The whole thing is just inhuman.”

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Assisted dying bill to be debated

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “Mounting evidence has shown that the UK’s blanket ban on assisted dying is not working and this poll clearly shows that the public understands the case for reform.

“The status quo does not provide sufficient choice or protection for our terminally ill citizens, puts loved ones in impossible positions, prevents healthcare professionals from providing all the end-of-life options their patients want, and forces the police to spend time and resource on cases which are clearly motivated by compassion and are rarely, if ever, prosecuted.”