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I, Like Noel Conway, Am Going To Die. Why Can't I Do It On My Own Terms?

06/10/2017 16:07 | Updated 06 October 2017
Dignity in Dying

Yesterday, a judgment was handed down on a legal case I have been following very closely. It was brought by Noel Conway, a 67-year-old man who is dying of motor neurone disease. He faces unimaginable suffering in his final months as his illness continues to rob him of the ability to move, speak and breathe.

Noel wants the right to determine when and how he dies, rather than endure this nightmare right to the bitter end. He is challenging the current law which bans assisted dying and forces him to suffer. I attended his hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in July. He was too ill to make it there himself.

To my deep disappointment, the news came yesterday that the High Court has rejected his case. The fight is not over yet, however. Noel and his legal team are assessing their options for appeal and I will be standing by him every step of the way.

Why do I have such a keen interest in this case? Because Noel and I have something in common - we are both dying.

I am 48-years-old and have incurable secondary breast cancer. It was diagnosed in November 2013 and I now have cancer in a number of sites. I have a 5% chance of surviving the next five years.

I get up every day, knowing that the world is closing down for me. My heart breaks at the thought of not seeing my children, Rosie and Josh, mature, get married and have children of their own. Worse than all that is the thought of leaving my wonderful husband, Jon.

christie arntsen

Although it has been unbearably hard, I have coped with finding out I have secondary breast cancer, chemotherapy, losing all my hair, surgery and radiotherapy. I still love my life, my family and friends and I plan to stay being myself until such time as I can no longer do so. What I find so hard to cope with is that I have no choice about when and how long it will take me to die.

I provided written evidence as a witness in Noel's case and have spoken out on national TV and radio because I feel so strongly that I should have a say over my own death. Why can't I go, when the time comes, as myself, and prevent the distress of barely clinging on to life in my last few weeks or months? The thought of my family watching me suffer as I slowly die is incredibly painful.

I have researched how I might take my own life at home. But it is just not feasible - I am so afraid my family would be held responsible for my decision. Currently my only option is to go to Dignitas in Switzerland, but this would mean having to end my life earlier to make sure I was well enough to plan and make the journey alone, so as not to implicate my loved ones.

The ability I have to be positive and carry on enjoying life would be so much easier to maintain if I had the knowledge that, when the time comes, I was able to seek an assisted death in this country. It is difficult to explain in words what this would mean to me and how much peace it would give me while I am living, when I am dying and in my last days.

I am speaking out because I believe that otherwise change will not happen. I am so grateful to Noel and his family for bringing assisted dying back into the foreground. I know that my life would be better if I knew I had a choice about when and where I die - it would make me want to live longer as I would know I was in control of when enough was enough.

To me it is obvious that assisted dying should be an option available to terminally ill people like me and Noel. To have this choice is a fundamental human right.

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