Skip to content

Jo Cartwright – In Memory of Geraldine McClelland.

There were a few things that struck me about Geraldine’s situation and the way in which she spent her final months. Firstly there was her resolve about the decision she had made to have an assisted death; she was clearly a fiercely independent woman, and certainly not vulnerable to external pressures in deciding how and when she would like to die. But what struck me most was the vulnerability I saw in her on the few occasions she thought her choice of an assisted death might be taken away from her; when her health deteriorated a few weekends ago, and when she had to have a procedure which she feared might keep her in hospital.

I have felt extremely sad about Geraldine’s decision during the last few weeks, but that feeling of sadness was mostly not about the fact she was going to die (although I am not immune to that sadness). I was sad that Geraldine spent so much of what she knew were her last weeks on earth worrying that something would prevent her from having the dignified and peaceful death, with her brother and sister by her side, that she so desperately wanted.

It was a great honour to have known Geraldine, and I will try to take the incredible courage she exhibited in her final weeks forward in this fight to make assisted dying a reality in this country. Geraldine shouldn’t have spent her last week’s worrying that she wouldn’t be able to physically get to where she had to go in order to be allowed the dignified death she wanted – none of us should.

Geraldine was clear in the letter she asked us to send out on her behalf, that she didn’t want us to be sad today, she wanted anyone who was moved by her situation to fight for the people left behind who have these difficult decisions to come. That’s exactly what I intend to do, in Geraldine’s name, and in the name of all those who have suffered because of our unjust laws before her.