I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Paul (above) a vocal proponent of the 'Dignity In Dying' campaign. In 2011 at the age of 42 Paul was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma (LMS). The cancer was discovered too late to be curable.
Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill cleared its first major hurdle last week. It was given its second reading in the House of Lords and was successfully passed onto the next stage of its hopeful passing in law. I fully believe in the right of terminally ill, mentally competent individuals to choose the time of their passing. Whilst I have heard reasonable arguments against the bill, a lot of them sadly stem from unwarranted conjecture and superstitious belief. It's shameful in this age that religious sensibilities are prolonging needless suffering and pain. It seems a little hypocritical of those rejecting the bill on religious grounds that they are happy with the idea of playing God in keeping people alive with medicine and treatment but not happy to play God in allowing the individual to comfortably pass at a time of their choosing.
Commenting on the current position in law, Lord Falconer said "The current situation leaves the rich able to go to Switzerland, the majority reliant on amateur assistance, and the compassionate treated like criminals." The dignity in dying bill proposes to allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to patients judged to have less than six months to live. For most terminally ill the knowledge alone that this option is available would be such a great comfort and weight off their mind.
Much like other pivotal moments in our human rights history, I imagine 50 years from now we'll look back at this time and probably feel shame and sadness at the way those nearing the end through serious illness were being treated.