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  1. ITV Report

'We should all be able to decide when to die' says partner of retired nurse who feared old age

The partner of a retired nurse who ended her life to avoid deteriorating health in old age says everyone should be able to choose when to die.

Credit: ITV News

Gill Pharaoh, 75, was not suffering from any terminal illness but complained her life was in decline and didn't want to get old. She ended her life at a Swiss clinic.

Credit: ITV News

Speaking to ITV News, her partner John Southall, from Pinner in north London, said he fully supported her decision.

I had plenty of notice, so it's not like it is perhaps for most couples when one dies unexpectedly.

Gill has always said she would never grow old. Her longest-standing friends say when she ws in her thirties she said fifty would be enough. And then she said as time went on, sixty. Then it became seventy. And she got to seventy and started taking it more seriously.

But, she has known for three years she would be setting it up and organising it. And over the last three years she had joined groups that are concerned with assisted dying.

So she's been getting into this movement and preparing for her own exit for the last three years.

– John Southall
Credit: ITV News

Speaking before her death Gill Pharaoh, a mother-of-two, said her experience as a nurse revealed the reality of old age.

She didn't want to get old. We would have looked after her. It would have been a pleasure to look after her and still have her. But she couldn't have tolerated that.

She couldn't have tolerated anyone else looking after her and attending to her.

It is selfish in so far as she has made it with her own wellbeing paramount. But, I think that is the one choice in life that you can make selfishly.

I wouldn't have any complaint at all if someone makes a selfish decision about when they're going to die.

– John Southall
Credit: ITV News

John described how he, and Gill's two children miss her, but 'didn't feel robbed' because Gill had voluntarily left the party.

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.

Gill was not that healthy. She had shingles five years ago. And since then she has had intermittent back pain, intermittent but frequent. On top of which she had tinnitus she has a high tech hearing aid but it does not control tinnitus.

She suffers from exhaustion virtually all the time. She'd go out into the garden, then after 15 minutes she'd come back into the house and say 'I'm exhausted'. And then she'd lie down here in the afternoon. Every afternoon she'd lie down watching daytime television.

We're talking about Gill. And she doesn't like living like that. She's active - or always has been. She likes to go on walks, shopping sprees, she likes to go and see friends. She likes to garden. She likes to go away. All of those things she was no longer able to do.

– John Southall

Gill Pharoah died in Basel on July 21 with John beside her.