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Notes for… Debbie Purdy

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It’s not a choice of life or death, it’s a choice of dignified death or painful death

You have lived now for around 15 years with multiple sclerosis – how are you physically?

How did you manage to engage in such a lengthy legal battle and balance this with the care you need?

Just to clarify here, are you or how close are you to reaching a place where you believe you will travel to Dignitas in Switzerland? Due you believe as Claudia Smith points out tha this a fundamental right of yours to decide?

Let’s go back to 1995, how did you react when you first found out you have this incurable and degenerative illness?

Describe how life has changed? Do you believe that it has changed the person you are or in fact made you stronger?

You write in your book about the ‘Big Four’ – immobility, incontinence, sex and pain.

What I wonder though, you physical abilities have deteriorated gradually – how would you have coped if it had all happened at once? Do you feel you would have already gone to Dignitas?

In those first few months and even years, you must have sometimes got so down that life didn’t seem worth living – had Dignitas been so easily available then do you believe you would have gone?

So Omar, you took on a lot by falling in love with a woman with MS whom you hardly knew. You appear quite a calm and charismatic guy, how have you approached Debbie’s illness? How was it when Debbie told you she was thinking about going to Dignitas?’

If you don’t mind let’s talk about the possibility of taking Debbie to Switzerland, how does this prospect make you feel?

Clearly you two have an incredibly amount of love and friendship – What have you learnt from Debbie during these 15 years?

Do you feel that had the law not been clarified, the authorities may have made more of an example of you. Do you think that because you a black man from a foreign country (as Debbie puts it) that this would have mattered?

You say you are yet to hear an argument against assisted suicide that can’t be addressed, but as Richard Jones points out on facebook

I’m in favour of assisted suicide in principle, in the sort of cases people have already described. I just don’t know how you would go about introducing a system by which it could operate. Clearly having people going to Switzerland isn’t satisfactory, but I’m not clear about the mechanics of how assisted suicide would work here.

Who decides when someone is a suitable case? What criteria do they use to come to that decision? Who administers the fatal dose of drugs? Where does the assisted suicide take place? I’d like to hear some suggestions on that.

– So what about the ‘slippery slop’ argument? To ways – people either go to early or are pushed into it my family members.

What about faith arguments?

You have debated this issue with all three party leaders, now public opinion approved massively on by my facebook note, is greatly in support of the right to die with dignity – why do you believe the politicians unwilling to reform the laws on suicide? Is it, as Claudia Smith wrote, that they simply don’t have the ‘balls?’ Racheal Seabrook This issue urgently needs calm, rational, public debate. Is it getting it?

Now I want to end with talking about what this whole experience has taught you both about society in general. Debbie regarding your wheelchair you say ‘life in a chair is undoubtedly fraught with obstacles, ignorance and patronising attitudes, but like many difficult journeys the view is breathtaking. Negotiating the difficulties can be heartbreaking and draining, but then you get a glimpse of the human spirit and you feel privileged to be a witness.

What has this experience taught you?

I’d like to end on what I think is the most inspiring sentence in your book ‘it’s important always to consider what you can do, rather than mourn what you can’t.


Written by Robert Dale

August 16, 2010 at 11:51 am

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