A woman from Farnham who accompanied her husband to end his life in Switzerland a decade ago is urging Surrey’s MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates to commit to overturn the ban on assisted dying, and create a safeguarded legal option for dying people.
Anne Norfolk, from Lower Bourne, says having the legal option in the UK would prevent other terminally ill people from undertaking the expensive and difficult journey that her husband Patrick did to access an assisted death overseas.
In 2012, Anne accompanied her terminally ill husband to Switzerland, where he was approved to access an assisted death at a specialist Swiss centre. Patrick had been experiencing significantly worsening ill-health since being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) four years previously.
Anne said: “When Patrick was diagnosed with MND, he was determined that he would be able to take his own life. He trawled the internet trying to find ways to do it all the time, so the strain of all that for both of us during that time was dreadful.
“Although we did talk about Switzerland right from the beginning, the decision to go was not one he wanted to take. There is no way Patrick wanted to die abroad – he didn’t think he should have to. He wanted to die in his own garden.
“But he really had no option because if we hadn’t gone when he did, he would have been suffering to the end. The shame about it is that had a UK law been in place, those four years would have been so much more pleasant. He would have known that, when he couldn’t cope any longer, he could have just asked for the assistance required.
“Most people in this country think assisted dying should be legal here, but MPs keep on delaying. At the next election, I’ll be looking carefully for candidates who are prepared to engage with this issue and work towards the type of law we see in other countries, which my husband benefited from but so many can’t.”
Anne’s appeal to MPs comes as a new report by Dignity in Dying, the UK’s leading campaign for a change in the law on assisted dying, reveals that the average cost for a terminally ill person travelling to Switzerland to die on their own terms now sits at £15,000 – a rise of £5,000 since 2018. Research commissioned by Dignity in Dying reveals that this cost would be unaffordable for almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of people in England and Wales, should they need it.
Over half (57 per cent) of people in England and Wales have seen a loved one suffer at the end of life, new research has also found, with four in ten (42 per cent) believing they would have considered an assisted death had it been a legal option for them in the UK. The report also found nearly eight in ten people (78 per cent) in England and Wales say they would support the introduction of a law that would enable terminally ill, mentally competent adults this choice.
It comes as the Health and Social Care Select Committee prepares to report on the first ever Commons inquiry into assisted dying, launched in December, while separate bills are already making progress in Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man.