Talk about Dignitas? The police want to know . . .

Distraught Nicola Sherwood with her mum, Brenda Withers, are interviewed by police over their euthanasia comments

Can you imagine having your movements restricted after talking about the Terry Pratchett programme?

That was the incredible scenario facing Nicola Sherwood and her mum after visiting Nicola’s ailing father, John Withers. John, 74yrs,  has been suffering with Alzheimers for the last two and a half years of his life. He lives at Miranda House care home in Wootton Bassett. Nicola’s only crime was to make an off-hand comment after watching the Terry Pratchett documentary on euthanasia.

“I was just merely commenting that in an ideal world, watching that programme, I’d go on my holidays for six weeks, come back, and give him that mixture. But then the police would be called and I’d be banged up,” she said. Staff overheard the conversation, a supervisor took her aside for a chat, and next thing she knows is a call from Gablecross police station, inviting her for an interview.

It’s the sort of flippant comment anyone might make – but it can’t reflect the facts. It is not possible to go to Dignitas or anywhere else in Switzerland and then come back with a lethal dose of barbiturates. Whether for yourself or anyone else. Regulation is tight. In cases of lawful assisted suicide at the clinics there, a patient has to go through many prior checks. Then, after being prescribed a lethal dose by a doctor, if wishing to drink it, must do so there and then in front of witnesses. It cannot be “taken away”!

“It was terrible given the fact of what we’ve gone through,” says Nicola. “If I was going to kill my dad do you not think I was going to do it before we put him in a home, to save everyone the trauma?” But she stressed that she could not take his life herself. “I wouldn’t. Anyone who gets euthanasia needs to understand what they’re doing. If my father had known how quickly the disease would have taken him, he would have made those choices.” She said she is now no longer allowed to take her father out of the home if she is unaccompanied.

People often don’t look into these matters in time – we don’t want to think about such things. Or we think it will be “easy” if push comes shove. It rarely is. But researching things early on, and in good time, sometimes also gives people an extra benefit – the courage to live longer.

Sadly it’s not a perfect world. From a police viewpoint, there is a duty to pro-actively detect and prevent crime and investigate the possible commission of the offence of aiding and abetting suicide or attempted suicide. Many of these cases will not be prosecuted (under the guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service) – but prosecution is a separate matter from police investigation. It has been said that official guidance to the police has not, sadly, caught up with the guidance of the Crown Prosecution Service. Until this anomaly is addressed, more people are likely to suffer police questioning.

Read the full story in the Swindon Advertiser
A Quick Guide to Dignitas
A case of dementia and a joint suicide (with links about Alzheimers)
Sample guidelines:
Merseyside Police Assisted Suicide Guidelines
Worcestershire NHS Assisted Suicide Policy
Police & Coroner guidelines
CPS guidelines

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One Response to Talk about Dignitas? The police want to know . . .

  1. RobZ says:

    I read in a blog post somewhere recently why suicide may be such a taboo in our modern society. The blog poster surmised that suicide was made a taboo by man’s early slave owners because they could not afford to have their slaves killing themselves and thus by being a taboo they would continue working for their masters. Thus it was placed into most religious writings so people would fear an afterlife in hell versus continuing to live in their present hell of slavery.

    I never really thought about that aspect of why it is so taboo before but after studying how most religions came about it makes sense that they had to propagate a myth that living in hell here is far superior to living in hell in some fantasy created nether land.

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