1. ITV Report

'I don't want to die like my father' - a north Wales man's determination to end his life with peace and dignity

Simon Birch was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. He says he doesn't want his family to watch him waste away like his father did. Photo: ITV News/Rob Shelley

A north Wales man says he will travel to an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland rather than allow his family to see him lose his fight with cancer.

Simon Birch, from Abergele, was diagnosed two years ago while being treated for another condition. He says that he hasn't been told his cancer is terminal, but it has spread and his life expectancy is low.

His experience of watching the disease kill his father has led him to make the decision that he doesn't want to die in the same way.

My father died 10 years ago. He had cancer and wasted away.He weighed barely seven stone when he died. He was full of morphine, he couldn't eat, he had sores round his mouth and was in a dreadful state.

It was horrifying to witness, and if I could have helped him I would have done. I wouldn't want anyone to go through that. You wouldn't treat an animal that way, letting them suffer against their will.

– Simon Birch
Simon is one of an increasing number of people choosing to end their own lives at assisted dying clinics in Switzerland. Credit: ITV News/Rob Shelley

Simon is one of an increasing number of people choosing to travel to Switzerland to end their lives.

According to a report published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the numbers of people going to the Dignitas clinic has doubled over the past four years. Almost half of those cases come from the UK and Germany. There are six right-to-die organisations in Switzerland, four of which allow nationals from other countries to use their services.

Simon says he feels lucky to still be alive two years after his diagnosis and tries to stay positive. He decided to join Dignitas as he doesn't want his family to see him die the way his father did.

I know I don't want to die like my father - or allow my family to see me die like that - so I have joined Dignitas.

I want a more peaceful and dignified end. I don't think there is dignity in suffering or pain, or being pumped full of morphine. I believe in self-determination.

Very often people don't die peacefully. Even when my father was unconscious his body was contorted and he was fighting for every breath. I saw my auntie with bone cancer and she went through endless agonies. It doesn't always happen like in the movies when people close their eyes and slip away. Sometimes it goes on and on.

We are supposed to live in a secular, modern society, and for me that's the crux. It's about compassion for the individual. People should have the right to chose and I'm sure we could come up with a framework to protect the vulnerable.

– Simon Birch