I went to a rally outside Parliament this morning along with many others, all campaigning in favour of the Assisted Dying Bill being read in Parliament today. Older, younger, the sick, those walking with frames, balancing on the cold ground beside those who were grieving, those who were remembering. Everyone had a story about someone’s journey towards dying in the most unbearable circumstances. Everyone has a story. There are over 145 speakers in the House of Lords, the debate will go on for hours.

It’s a contentious subject, not least because those who are disabled are concerned, and rightly so, about their rights, about being killed when they are happy to live. Their lives are as valuable as any life. Today’s bill, if passed, will be for the terminally ill. Those who are suffering and who, as my mother says are in a living hell, will not be considered.

I went to the rally for my mum and for the many others who have and are suffering. I cried as I approached the meeting point, unable to believe that I was here, for my mum, who has asked me to campaign for assisted dying. As many of you know, my mum Esther, at 93, has no quality of life. She cannot see, walk, can hardly talk, she has no enjoyment whatsoever. She has no joy. She wants to die. She is ready to die. She asks me daily to kill her, to slip her an arsenic pill, to end her life, please, please end my life. She is still eating, but she has stopped taking her medication. It is her choice. She cries, she hits herself, clutches at her throat, as if willing her vocal chords to work better. She is suffering, she is overwhelmingly distressed, and so am I.

As one of the speakers said this morning, this is not about quantity of life but quality. Dr Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm, spoke eloquently and passionately to the group. Baroness Ruth Davidson, standing in front of the statue of George V, supported us. The Rt Honourable David Lipsey acknowledged us all on his way into the Lords and said he would vote in favour of the bill. It was a calm, well organised and highly significant rally with banners held high, names and faces of those dead and those who want to die with dignity, staring across at scaffolding clad Parliament, hoping for a positive outcome.

There were a few Vicars present who spoke for the Bill all agreeing that no one should have to suffer. I was approached by a Christian man who had come to see what was going on. I told him he could choose to think differently to what his religion tells him to believe. He chooses to disagree. I said that my mother’s Orthodox Jewish neighbour admitted she was confused and in conflict about her religious beliefs pitted against my mother’s suffering. It had made her query assisted suicide for the first time. The Christian and I had a civilised discussion, despite the police standing by. We agreed to disagree, he blessed me and we left it at that. As cars tooted their horns in solidarity and bike bells rang out, I chatted to several people; these are some of the stories I heard.

A father who had cancer in his spine and was in unbearable pain, drove his car to a secluded place and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He died alone.

The father with Motor Neurone Disease who possibly had a couple more years to live, but wanted to end his life when he chose, travelled to Dignitas with his wife and children. He was 59.

A couple held a banner for a friend who they took to Dignitas two years ago. The woman cried as she recounted the story. The man was blind and appeared to be unwell himself.

The retired doctor who has a bottle of chloroform and a plastic bag ready.

If the bill is passed we must ensure that those who are disabled or mentally unwell receive proper care. We must ensure that better support is provided for those who need it. Strict regulations must be in place.

In an ideal word I would like to die peacefully without pain, without illness with my wife by my side. I know the chance of this perfect death is unlikely. Having watched my sister, father and several close friends die horrifically, I believe everyone has the right to choose to die with dignity, without suffering, with their loved ones by their side, neither in a car nor a clinical room. That is why I went to Parliament today.


  1. You are more gracious than I, leaving it at that with the ‘Christian man’ who got to walk away with his opinions intact. Perhaps he feels he’s thought more deeply after his conversation with the daughter of someone ready to die, and that is all very civilised, but it’s also blinkered. It made me sad that he got to be a mere passer by, a grief-tourist. Walking a mile in your shoes, meeting the desperate person in pain for an hour, let alone living with them daily, is the only thing that’s going to crack the hard shell of ‘moral’ judgement. I hope he understood how many people of his faith stood with you. This is not a religious issue, it’s a deeply human one and everyone there yesterday is so brave not to walk away.

    1. Hi there. Thank you for responding. Honestly, I don’t see the point in having a full scale argument with a man who clearly has a strong religious belief and wasn’t willing to listen more deeply. I don’t know what his circumstances are or have been, whether he has been in a situation of witnessing a beloved who is suffering, and yet allowing his religious belief to think it’s ok to let someone suffer. If he hasn’t witnessed this, I hope he is never in a position to do so.It is cruel. I did tell him that just as he chose to allow his religious beliefs to take charge of his morals and responsibility, so taking none himself, he could choose, like the clergy who were present yesterday and in favour of the bill being passed, he could choose to adapt his beliefs. But he wasn’t willing to do so yesterday. Perhaps I and the others
      gave him food for thought and he went away and had a think. Or not. I don’t have the power to change anyone, only myself. All good wishes. S

  2. Dear Shelley, I am so sorry to hear about your beautiful Mum’s suffering. And I totally agree with your stand. I know we have had a Voluntary Assisted Dying bill here in the state of Victoria since 2017. And even so there are still issues which need to be resolved so that all who need and would take advantage of VAD get access to the right information and in timely manner:
    I cannot fathom a society or a religion that approves euthanasia for animals who are suffering pain but cannot countenance the same humane treatment for human beings. Wishing you and other activists all the very best for your campaign. Sending my love to you and your Mother. xxx

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