Watching How to Die: Simon's Choice on BBC2 last night has brought back a lot of memories for us. We too have direct experience of accompanying loved ones to have an assisted death. It is a difficult and unique experience that poses many challenging questions, something that Mr Binner's wife Debbie has spoken eloquently about in the last few days.
Everyone grieves for loved ones who die. We believe there is no difference in the case of a death that is sudden, prolonged or assisted. The process of watching a loved one come to the end of their life is never easy, and we are filled with great sympathy for Debbie and her family.
Much like Debbie we too experienced the grief of losing a family member or friend who chose to end their life rather than die from their illness. We, thankfully, had a network of friends and family to talk to, grieve with and lean on. Yet losing someone can still be a lonely experience. The isolation you feel is exacerbated by the fact that the person you have lost has done something seen to be 'illicit'. Not only that but, by accompanying them, you are complicit in something that is, essentially, illegal under UK law. Who do you talk to, where can you seek advice and support and how honest can you be when you are under such a cloud?
There is currently no support network specifically for the families and friends of those having an assisted death. Last year saw the highest number of Briton's having an assisted death at Dignitas in its 18-year history. Each month three more people from the UK travel to Dignitas to have an assisted death, with more travelling to similar organisations in Switzerland and elsewhere, adding to the ever-increasing number of family members and friends afflicted in this unique way. What we have learnt from the loss of our own loved ones is that support throughout the bereavement process is vital.
That is why in the coming weeks and months we will be working to set up such a support group here in the UK. Our experiences with our loved ones have made us campaigners for the right to have an assisted death in the UK, but we also want to offer support to those who are bereaved in this unique way, regardless of their feelings about assisted dying.
Today marks five months since the Rob Marris Assisted Dying Bill was defeated in the House of Commons. That defeat may have prevented a change in the law but it hasn't stopped people having assisted deaths either here or abroad. It most certainly hasn't done anything to alleviate the grief of those who are left behind.
Lesley Close's brother John had an assisted death at Dignitas in 2003. Carol Taylor OBE and Mick Murray's friends Ann Hall and her husband Bob Cole had assisted deaths at Dignitas in 2014 and 2015 respectively.