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Grassroots campaigning in Bristol and Bath

Pauline CarrollMy commitment to Dignity in Dying stems from the sense of injustice I felt when I was a District Nurse…

…the local hospice in Bath once told a GP that their palliative care services would be withdrawn from his surgery, should he maintain his stance that – had there been an assisted dying law in place – he could have helped a patient who had requested an end to the unbearable suffering of his final cancer ridden weeks.

At the time, this was enough to effectively silence those concerned and I am only just coming to realise the tyranny that was displayed here. I have since reported it to the Ministry of Justice and I want as many people to know of this as possible. In effect, when Lord Falconer’s Bill becomes law, it is envisaged that Palliative care doctors will need to refer on requests for an assisted death. It works in Oregon after all.

The Christian doctrine of this country has much to answer for in its opposition to Lord Falconer’s Bill so I was gratified when Lord Carey and Bishop Desmond Tutu gave their support to it, saying certain rules are no longer practicable, when patients and families are faced with the sometimes overwhelming pain and anguish of terminal suffering, which we are all aware can occur.

Our Bristol and Bath Group have taken part in Dying Matters Week, having a table last year at the University of Bath; we have been part of an effective letter drop to Peers; attended debates; in the organisation of a hustings event in Bath where Parliamentary Candidates were asked to speak for 10 minutes each on the Bill.

Four out of the five candidates were in support and Ben Howlett, Conservative, who is now the MP for Bath was the only one to put his supportive views on his pre-election website. Ben told me that he knows that this did lose him a few votes but that he was prepared to stick by his principles

In addition a question on the Bill was asked by one of our local members, David Carlile to the prospective Parliamentary Candidates in Bristol North West on BBC Radio Bristol. Although Charlotte Lesley, the continuing Conservative MP, appeared to be opposed she recognised that humility was a key issue here and I understand Dignity in Dying is fairly positive that she can be helped to recognise the necessity of the Bill for mentally competent, terminally ill adults.

Local members have also seen success in promoting the work of Compassion in Dying, helping display Advance Decision leaflets in local libraries and GP surgeries. Also, the Bath and North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group have recently agreed through their End of Life care division to distribute the leaflets to GP Practices within their area.

I have been very pleased with the Group’s efforts in supporting Dignity in Dying and Compassion in Dying.

The importance of what we are trying to achieve sadly came to the fore when I learnt a few weeks ago that one member of our Group, had taken her own life. She had been diagnosed with terminal heart disease and had been planning on using the services of Dignitas but had found the paperwork too onerous, hence her solitary action in this country, confirming to me yet again the necessity of Lord Falconer’s Bill.

We look forward to a time when a dying person’s wishes can be truly respected and that this most vulnerable group are not made to feel like social outcasts for requesting an end to their intolerable suffering.