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Healthy nurse, 75, ends life at Swiss suicide clinic because she did not want to become 'hobbling old lady'

Gill Pharaoh ended her life simply because she did not want to grow old. Credit: Bovvering Books

A healthy retired nurse has ended her life at a Swiss suicide clinic because she did not want to become old.

Gill Pharaoh, 75, a former palliative care nurse who wrote books on caring for the elderly, was not suffering from any terminal illness.

But speaking before her death, the mother-of-two said her experience as a nurse had revealed the "awful" reality of old age.

Ms Pharaoh, from north London, said she did not want to become a burden to her children or be "blocking beds" and costing the NHS a "fortune".

“I have looked after people who are old, on and off, all my life. I have always said, ‘I am not getting old...I do not want people to remember me as a sort of old lady hobbling up the road with a trolley," she told The Sunday Times (£).

She died in Basel on July 21 with her partner of more than 25 years, John, beside her.

Despite not suffering any serious health problems, Ms Pharaoh said a severe bout of shingles in 2010 had "changed" everything and she started to feel that her health was beginning to deteriorate.

"I feel my life is complete and I am ready to die," she wrote in a blog entitled 'My Last Word' in the months before her death.

Day by day I am enjoying my life.

I simply do not want to follow this natural deterioration through to the last stage when I may be requiring a lot of help.

I have to take action early on because no one else will be able to take action for me.

The thought that I may need help from my children totally appalls me.

– Gill Pharaoh

Before she took a fatal dose of medication, the 75-year-old and John walked through Basel before enjoying a "tranquil" meal on the banks of the Rhine.

Ms Pharaoh's children knew of their mother's plans and the former nurse admitted that they struggled to accept her decision.

"It is not his [John’s] choice at all and my kids are backing me, although it is not their choice," she told the newspaper.

“My daughter is a nurse and she said, ‘Intellectually, I know where you are coming from but emotionally I am finding it really hard,’ and I know she is.”

But campaign group Care Not Killing, a group which campaigns against assisted dying, condemned Ms Pharaoh's case as "chilling":

It sends out a chilling message about how society values and looks after elderly people in the UK.

It seeks the introduction of death on demand for those who fear becoming a burden, even if they are otherwise fit and healthy.

This is an abhorrent development, but it reveals a truth that some who argue for a change in the law really believe there should be no safeguards or restrictions on assisted killing.

– Care Not Killing