Assisted dying: 'I don't have quality of life anymore' Man with terminal cancer calls for law change

A terminal cancer sufferer who says he has “no quality of life” is calling for a change in the law to allow assisted dying.

Stephen James Davies, from Cardiff, told ITV1’s Sharp End: “I think changes to the law would be moral, it would be humane.

“I want to try and live, but they say this cancer is incurable so they can only manage it. "But if I go on more drugs it'll completely dilapidate me, so part of me just wants to go. I don't want to end up here (in bed) with carers coming in.”

Mr Davies has Stage 4 follicular lymphoma, a disease which affects white blood cells called ‘B lymphocytes’, which in turn affects the lymphatic and immune systems - the body's natural defence against infection.

Mr Davies says he was a "dignified, smart chap" and fears being bedridden before he passes away. Credit: Sharp End

The 62-year-old says symptoms of the “slow growing” cancer began in his late 40s to early 50s and was misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and COPD. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

“It just eats you away,” Mr Davies said.

“Until (the diagnosis) I swam nearly every day, I had been a massive walker, played the guitar, wrote songs, done art… I can't read now, I haven't played the guitar for four years, I don't watch anything ever, I just lay here.”

“I've really been running out of energy recently. The doctor's said I'd be dead in three months possibly but I'm still here and my major fear is that I'm getting all these symptoms that have never really gone away. The worst thing is that I can't breathe.

“I was a dignified smart chap before with great pride in himself… I think it's going to get progressively worse and I could be bedridden for years.”

The UK Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee launched a new inquiry to look at different perspectives in the debate, with evidence sessions taking place soon. MPs will then make their recommendations to the UK Government on next steps in a report following the inquiry.

Mr Davies said: “(Politicians) haven't got a clue what it's like to live like this and I don't think they will ever know unless it happens to them.

His message to them is: “Look at what the person has to endure and go through. The option should be there for terminally ill people with horrible diseases.”

Given the choice, he said he would travel to Switzerland but it costs too much money.

Stephen Davies used to love guitar, but hasn't played for years since his cancer diagnosis. Credit: Sharp End

In the UK, it is currently illegal to assist someone to die – so as a result, many people travel to Switzerland to arrange an assisted death with Dignitas.

Dignitas is a Swiss organisation that facilitates "physician-assisted suicide" and accepts British citizens with terminal illnesses or severe physical or mental illnesses.According to the campaign for Dignity in Dying, one British person travels to Dignitas to die every eight days.

Mr Davies said: “Friends or family can't take me because they'll be arrested when they come back, so I have to shut up and die a miserable death with no motivation to live anymore.

“I don't want to die - I want to live. I’m not feeling suicidal, I just don't have any quality of life anymore.”

MPs at the Westminster Hall debate to discuss reforming the law around assisted dying Credit: UK Parliament/PA

Opponents to assisted dying are concerned it would open the floodgates of people wanting to die.

To this, Mr Davies said: “This is the most improvement I've got and it's not enough.

"It's awful. It's awful not being able to walk and breathe and have gunge coming out of your side, not being able to wee. I get lymphedema which means parts of my body swells up and because I was fairly fit before it's going to take a while for me to die.

“I hate to say it but I'm a dead man walking. I believe in assisted dying because I think it's humane. I think people are going through hell.”

Stephen Davies thinks changing the law to allow assisted dying would be "moral" and "humane". Credit: Sharp End

The organisation Care Not Killing says any change in the law to allow assisted suicide or euthanasia would place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden upon others, especially affecting people who are disabled, elderly, sick or depressed.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, said: “Legalising Physician Assisted Suicide seems to normalise suicide in the general populations.

“Indeed, academics who looked at this emerging trend concluded that legalising assisted suicide was associated with an increase of 6.3 per cent in the numbers of suicides in Oregon, once all other factors had been controlled. Among over 65s the figure was more than double that.

“In Canada, in 2021, 1,700 people who were euthanised cited loneliness as a reason. At the same time limits on who could be killed, the so-called safeguards have been eroded or scrapped and the Government has talked about the millions of dollars introducing euthanasia has saved regional health budgets.

"While in Belgium and the Netherlands, a system designed for terminally ill mentally competent adults has been extended to children, disabled people, those with mental health problems (the fastest growing reason), even those who have not given their consent due to conditions such as dementia.”

“We need to care for people who are suffering, not encourage them or provide them with a mechanism to end their lives. This is why we champion the extension of high quality palliative care to all those who need it and better support for their families.”

Stephen James Davies wants the law to change. Credit: ITV Wales

'A patient safety crisis'

Sarah Wootton, Dignity in Dying Chief Executive, says Brits “overwhelmingly” agree that terminally ill people must be listened to; doing nothing in the face of the harm and injustice they face is simply not an option.

She said: “The blanket ban on assisted dying represents a patient safety crisis, with terminally ill people forced to choose between suffering unbearably against their wishes or taking matters into their own hands, either alone behind closed doors or overseas at eye-watering expense. "Parliamentarians across the British Isles are recognising that these outdated laws are unfit for purpose, with assisted dying bills progressing in Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

“This inquiry could be a step towards a safer, more compassionate law for England and Wales, but only if it makes space for the most important voices to be heard – dying people and bereaved relatives. Westminster is at a fork in the road: it can choose to ignore the evidence of the dangers of the status quo, or it can accept its failings and find a way through to give dying people the safeguarded choice they want and need. There is no question which option the British public is calling for.”

  • Watch the full interview and catch up with Sharp End here, Mondays at 10:45pm on ITV Cymru Wales