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Wife of Folkestone man Andrew Barclay, who died at Dignitas, will debate assisted dying in House of Commons

A woman whose husband made the decision to end his life at Dignitas is preparing to debate the subject in the House of Commons.

Sandra Barclay, from Folkestone, accompanied her husband Andrew, who was 65 and suffering from multiple sclerosis, to the Swiss clinic in 2016.

Mr Barclay, a former civil servant, said he suffered with his symptoms everyday and made the decision to end his life rather than endure a prolonged, painful death.

Now, three years later, Mrs Barclay, 69, will attend the 'Ann and Geoffrey Whaley' debate on assisted dying at the the House of Commons - the first major debate on the issue since 2015.

It will explore the functioning of the current law relating to assisted dying and the issues it causes for terminally ill people and their families.

In England and Wales, assisted dying is prohibited under the Suicide Act, which states that anyone who "encourages or assists a suicide" is liable to up to 14 years in prison.

Mrs Barclay said: "The law in this country meant that Andrew and I were robbed of precious time together.

Sandra and Andrew, pictured in Zurich. Picture credit: Dignity in Dying (13286209)
Sandra and Andrew, pictured in Zurich. Picture credit: Dignity in Dying (13286209)

"If he could have died on his own terms at home, we could have possibly had another Christmas and New Year together, but he was terrified of becoming too ill to travel."

Also due to speak at the debate is Ann Whaley, from Buckinghamshire, whose husband Geoffrey, 80, died at Dignitas in February this year.

He had terminal motor neurone disease and in December was told he had just months left to live. He made the decision to control his death.

But due to an anonymous call to authorities revealing Geoffrey's plans to end his life abroad, he and wife Ann, 76, were both investigated by police and social services.

The family feared Geoffrey would be prevented from travelling or that Ann might be arrested for ‘assisting a suicide’.

'Many more terminally ill people suffer against their wishes and this is wrong' - Sandra Barclay

Mrs Barclay added: "In the end, like Geoff, Andrew had a good death, but that was only an option because we could afford the £10,000 required.

"Many more terminally ill people suffer against their wishes and this is wrong.

"I am glad that MPs have a chance to discuss this in the Commons and I look forward to supporting Ann Whaley at the debate."

The debate is scheduled for this Thursday in the Main Chamber of the House.

The successful application for the motion came from Nick Boles MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, alongside Sarah Champion MP and Norman Lamb MP.

Dignitas is a Swiss non-profit members' society providing assisted or accompanied suicide to members of the organisation who suffer from terminal illness or severe physical or mental illnesses.

Ann and Geoff Whaley. Picture: Dignity in Dying (13282880)
Ann and Geoff Whaley. Picture: Dignity in Dying (13282880)

Currently, every eight days someone travels to Switzerland from Britain for a legal assisted death - a process which costs £10,000 on average.

UK campaign group Dignity in Dying seeks for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life.

The organisation's chief executive Sarah Wotton said: "The Whaley’s and the Barclay’s are not alone in feeling the dreadful effects of the UK’s broken law on assisted dying.

"Compassion is not a crime, yet families across the country have been made to feel like criminals for acting out of love for a dying loved one.

"Others did not have the funds or means to act and instead watching helplessly as a relative suffered a traumatic death or took drastic steps to end their own life.

"MPs need to hear these stories.

"Medical organisations such as the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs have recently announced that they will survey their members on this issue, and jurisdictions around the world, most recently Victoria in Australia and Maine and New Jersey in the US, are concluding that the law must be changed to give terminally ill citizens true choice at the end of life.

"It is high time that MPs have a detailed, respectful debate on this important issue and I hope that they will listen to constituents’ experiences with an open mind."

The campaign group Care Not Killing claim the laws in other countries have led to higher suicide rates.

Dr Gordon MacDonald, chief executive of Care Not Killing, said: “No major disability rights organisation or doctors' group currently supports changing law, including the BMA, Royal College of GPs and the Association for Palliative Medicine, who have repeatedly looked at this issue in detail and concluded that there is no safe system of assisted suicide and euthanasia anywhere in the world.

“They have seen what has happened in the handful of places that have removed universal protections that protect disabled people and the terminally ill. Laws that were introduced in Holland and Belgium and were only meant to apply to mentally competent terminally ill adults, have been extended to include the elderly, disabled, those with mental health problems and worryingly even non-mentally competent children.

"Our view is clear, society should be doing everything in our power to prevent suicide, not assist it.

“The safest law is the one we have, which gives blanket prohibition on all assisted suicide and euthanasia. It deters exploitation and abuse, but at the same time gives some discretion to prosecutors and judges to temper justice with mercy in hard cases.”

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time.

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