Man travelling to Switzerland to end his life says UK law is failing terminally ill people

David Peace. Credit: PA

A terminally ill man, who plans to travel to Switzerland to end his life, says UK lawmakers have “failed” people on assisted dying laws.

David Peace was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2019.

He can no longer speak or swallow, receives nutrition through a tube into his stomach, and fears choking to death every day.

The 73-year-old, from Westminster, said he is not suicidal but is reluctantly choosing to end his life prematurely so he is spared “intolerable” suffering in future.

The current law on assisted dying means he needs to travel abroad before his disease progresses to the extent that he cannot manage the journey or administer the medication.

He hopes to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland in the next two months.

Mr Peace was diagnosed with MND in 2019 Credit: David Peace/PA

Mr Peace, who communicates by text to voice software on his iPad, said: “Reluctantly I’m being propelled to bring forward my death by the relentless attacks on my body, with no hope of relief or cure, and no legal or dignified remedy in Britain other than continual suffering with more and more pills, opiates and sedation, tubes into the throat and other intervention.”

He added: “If the law in the UK were different my life would be longer and my end of life would not entail the hassle and difficulty of international travel at the most vulnerable point in my life.”

What is the current law in the UK?

Assisted dying is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

But a private member’s Bill, which would allow terminally ill adults to legally seek assistance to end their lives, will have its second reading in Parliament next week.

If passed, the Bill would enable adults who are of sound mind and have six months or less to live to be provided with life-ending medication with the approval of two doctors and a High Court judge.

A public consultation on a similar Bill was launched in Scotland last month.

MPs voted against an assisted dying Bill in 2015, with 330 against and 118 for the proposals.

What are the arguments for and against changing the law?

Those who oppose a law change say it would place pressure on people to end their lives and that the current laws protect the vulnerable.

Mr Peace said the legislation is needed to “rectify the dire lack of choice and control” for people with terminal illnesses, and it would offer them “a true choice, not an obligation, with proper safeguards to protect against coercion or depression”.

A change in the law is “long overdue”, he said, adding: “Our legislators have failed us thus far.”

What do the majority of people think about it?

Polling for the charity Dignity in Dying suggests 74% of British people want Parliament to back the Bill.

70% want to see assisted dying legalised by the next general election, according to the YouGov survey of 1,733 adults on October 7 and 8.

Half (52%) of respondents said they have witnessed the suffering of a terminally ill loved one.

Just 9% of those surveyed said parliamentarians should vote against the Bill.

Mr Peace said it is “heartening, but not surprising” to see such strength of public support.

Those objecting on religious grounds “must not impose their beliefs on others”, he said, while those morally opposed “must search their consciences”.

He added: “Who would not like to have a choice?”

Mr Peace said religious or moral objections to assisted dying should not stop others from having that choice Credit: David Peace/PA

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Our sympathies remain with the families and loved ones affected by these deeply upsetting cases.

“Any change to the law in an area of such sensitivity and importance must be for individual MPs to consider rather than a decision for government.”

Where can you get help if you are struggling?

The NHS and several charities across the UK offer various resources and helplines for people who need help and for people who think someone they care about needs support.

Mind has a helpline on 0300 123 3393.

The Samaritans, which helps people who feel suicidal, can be contacted on 116 123.

The NHS has a resource page offering more information here.