News, Culture & Society

Former care worker with terminal cancer living in ‘absolute hell’ over assisted dying fears

Doug Allen, 58, (pictured) of Sidmouth, Devon, has decided he wants to end his life but cannot afford to travel to Switzerland where assisted dying is legal

A former carer with terminal pancreatic cancer has told of how he wishes to end his life but is terrified of his partner being hauled in front of a judge if he does so.

Doug Allen, 58, of Sidmouth, Devon, was given his devastating cancer diagnosis in September last year and has faced gruelling rounds of chemotherapy.

He describes the treatment as ‘absolute hell’ and having ‘knocked him for six’ saying that on some days ‘it’s difficult just to get out of bed’.

Mr Allen has considered travelling to Switzerland where euthanasia is generally legal, but claims he cannot afford the thousands of pounds required to do.

Instead, he says he wants to ‘die in his own bed’ and for that to be the place he spends his last few days.

But the law in the United Kingdom currently states that euthanasia is illegal, and anyone who helps Mr Allen take his own life could face prosecution – including his 74-year-old partner and former care home manager Carol Roberts.

The law recently saw a widow, Mavis Eccleston, 80, face charges of murder and manslaughter after she and her husband Dennis, 81, agreed to take a lethal cocktail of drugs to end their lives together because of ‘ill-health, harrassment and neighbourhood tensions’.

The couple were found unconscious by relatives at their Staffordshire home in February last year. Mrs Eccleston was successfully treated in the nearby County Hospital, Stafford, but her husband did not recover.

Mr Allan is terrified his partner Carol (left together) will be hailed in front of a judge should he decide to take his life in the UK - afraid of how complicit Ms Roberts will be in his death

Mr Allan’s family have told him to ‘keep fighting’ and ‘stay strong’, and the former carer understands that assisted dying and suicide are something ‘no family member wants to hear about’ (Mr Allen is pictured during his time as a carer)

Mr Allan is terrified  his partner Carol (left together) will be hailed in front of a judge should he decide to take his life in the UK – afraid of how complicit Ms Roberts will be in his death

The mother-of-three was eventually acquitted after telling jurors they were both of sound mind, and had agreed to take medication to end their lives together.

Now Mr Allan is terrified the same thing will happen to his partner should he decide to opt for euthanasia – afraid of how complicit Ms Roberts will be in his death.

He said: ‘I don’t want to get to a point where I’m just in constant pain or discomfort or be comatose through the drugs. I just think what’s the point in going on, I don’t want to go on.

‘So I’ve already thought come the time that I want to make a decision and take my own life.

‘What really worries me and scares me is that Carol my partner might be implicated in some way through my death.

‘I watched the case of Mavis Eccleston in disbelief. Just to hear that. I thought how could this poor woman be put on trial for her husband’s death when clearly she was at her wits end.

‘So she went through the whole process her and her husband and they did this suicide pact and then she survived. And then she’s got to go through this other (another) awful ordeal.

‘It’s like reliving it. Why on earth should she be put on trial. For the life of me I can’t think what anyone thought she had to gain personally from killing him. She was at her wits end.

‘Any human being with any bit of humility would know that she was at her wits end and could think of nothing else to do and she just wanted to end his suffering.’

The pair are pictured at Christmas 2015, which they thought would be their last together, as Dennis had been diagnosed with bowel cancer that year

The pair are pictured at Christmas 2015, which they thought would be their last together, as Dennis had been diagnosed with bowel cancer that year

Mr Allan has considered Dignitas, a clinic in Switzerland that provides assisted suicide services but claims he cannot afford it and argues that he should not have to travel abroad to end his own life – given his ‘exceptional circumstances’.

He describes the pain of his treatment as ‘agony’ and after just two rounds of chemotherapy says he is already struggling to cope with the pain.

‘I’m in the early stages of my treatment but already there have been some days where I have been in absolute pain and suffering and agony and I’ve looked at the sleeping tablets and I’ve thought, there’s an option,’ he said.

‘I know I’ve got this other option. I can go to Switzerland. Obviously that costs money. I haven’t got that sort of money number one and why do I want to go to a foriegn country to die. I want to die at home where I want to be where I want to spend my last few days. Why should people be forced to make that decision?’

Mr Allan’s family have told him to ‘keep fighting’ and ‘stay strong’, and the former carer understands that assisted dying and suicide are something ‘no family member wants to hear about.’

But, he says: Some days it’s difficult just to get out of bed. I’m really concerned about this issue. I’ve even been asking things like, say I’ve already decided that I’m going to stockpile sleeping tablets and crush them up, put them in a bag and then near the time I’m just going to swallow them.

What is the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide?  

Euthanasia is the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to relieve suffering.

Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under English law.

Assisted suicide 

Assisted suicide is illegal under the terms of the Suicide Act (1961) and is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Trying to kill yourself is not a criminal act.

Euthanasia 

Depending on the circumstances, euthanasia is regarded as either manslaughter or murder. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

Types of Euthanasia 

Euthanasia can be classified as: 

  • voluntary euthanasia, where a person makes a conscious decision to die and asks for help to do so 
  • non-voluntary euthanasia, where a person is unable to give their consent to treatment (for example, because they’re in a coma) and another person takes the decision on their behalf, often because the ill person previously expressed a wish for their life to be ended in such circumstances 

Source: NHS  

‘But I’m worried about even stupid little things like if Carol hands me a bag of sleeping tablets does that make her complicit in my suicide. I don’t know, who knows.

‘It’s just simple things like that. Because what is the definition of assisting someone in their own suicide. I don’t know. Nobody is telling me.

‘It’s a grey area and this needs clarification. Why should I have this worry. I’ve got enough on my plate already to worry about without having to worry about this. The law is a joke it really is.’

The former carer, who says he witnessed people in immense suffering during his work, has been thinking about euthanasia for some time.

And he understands that suicide and assisted dying are sensitive topics, but he argues that in ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as his people need to try to understand.

‘When someone is in continuous pain and there is nothing medical people can do about that pain. They can’t take it away. I’ve already found that out.

On a Thursday I feel awful, two days previously even worse because I just had the chemotherapy on Tuesday. I’ll start to feel a little bit better by the weekend and then it’ll be chemotherapy again next Tuesday.

‘And then there’s the other side as well. When I’m doubled up in pain and Carol has to look at that obviously she’s upset. No one wants to see that. No one wants to see a loved one curled up in pain and you can’t do anything.

‘She is supportive of my decision but she is very worried about if she will face trial. We have sort of spoken about it and I’m just trying to think of ways where I can do it. We’ve even spoken about her filming it. As evidence of her not being involved.

‘Hopefully I’ll be compos mentis enough to say, “this is my decision and I’ve decided now is the time to go. Here’s the tablets, I’m going to take them myself and no one has assisted me. I’ll have this drink and then shortly later I’ll be dead.”’

But, he’s furious he’ll have to take such steps, asking her to video his own death.

‘I’ve got to ask her to film that. How upsetting is that? We shouldn’t have to go through these things,’ he said.

Mr Allan, who has been with his partner for 19 years and has one brother and two sisters has only told his step-mother about his wishes – and it was difficult for her to hear about, he says.

But from his experiences working in the care industry he knows that carrying on with treatment is not something for him.

‘I was a carer before this,’ he says ‘I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen people with severe dementia. Awful. Absolutely awful. I’ve seen people in all sorts of pain and suffering. As I saw I’ve thought about this for a long long time.

‘My neighbour, lovely chap, he’s recently had to put his dog down because the dog had cancer. A lot of pain. So he’s allowed to put a dog down, an animal down, and we can’t do that for human beings. We can’t end the suffering of human beings. It’s stupid.

‘I can deal with dying, that’s fine. But I can’t deal with the thought of Carol on trial. She could be behind bars after my death. Grieving behind bars. Who in Gods name wants to do that.’

Mr Allan is speaking as new research from YouGov, revealed that more than seven in ten (73 per cent) people with an advanced or terminal illness would support a change in the law on assisted dying to allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option of an assisted death in the UK. 

The survey also found that around two-thirds (64 per cent) would be pleased to have the option of assisted dying for themselves alongside good end–of-life care, and two-fifths (39 per cent) say they have or would consider travelling abroad for an assisted death.

The results of the YouGov survey of 502 adults diagnosed with advanced cancer, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple system atrophy or progressive supranuclear palsy are published in a new report out earlier this week. 

It came as a terminally ill motor neurone disease sufferer today lost his High Court challenge over the ‘blanket ban’ on assisted dying.

Mr Newby was diagnosed with MND and can no longer walk or use his hands and lower arms

Mr Newby was diagnosed with MND and can no longer walk or use his hands and lower arms

Phil Newby, a member of Dignity in Dying, is pictured with his wife Charlotte and daughters

 Phil Newby, a member of Dignity in Dying, is pictured with his wife Charlotte and daughters

Phil Newby, 49, from Rutland in the East Midlands, was diagnosed with MND in 2014 and is no longer able to walk or use his hands and lower arms.

The married father of two had brought legal action against the Government over the law, which makes it a criminal offence for anyone to help another person end their life.

Mr Newby’s case was that judges should thoroughly examine a large amount of expert evidence – including from countries where assisted dying is legal – before deciding whether the law is incompatible with his human rights.

Seven in ten with an advanced or terminal illness back law change

More than seven in ten people with an advanced or terminal illness would support a change in the law on assisted dying, a survey revealed today.

The poll by YouGov for Dignity in Dying also found that around two-thirds would be pleased to have the option of assisted dying for themselves alongside good end–of-life care.

In addition, the research in the report ‘What Matters to Me’ found two-fifths say they have or would consider travelling abroad for an assisted death.

YouGov surveyed 502 adults diagnosed with advanced cancer, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple system atrophy or progressive supranuclear palsy.

But, refusing permission this afternoon for his case to go ahead, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice May said the court is ‘not an appropriate forum for the discussion of the sanctity of life’. 

Mr Newby said: ‘The High Court’s decision not to hear our case and not to test the evidence for and against assisted dying is disappointing to me and the many hundreds of others who have helped to fund it.

‘We will be fighting on to bring down a law that is widely thought to be cruel, so that it can be replaced by something more humane and compassionate.’

His lawyers told a hearing in London in October that Mr Newby is facing an ‘inhumane and intolerable’ deterioration as his illness progresses.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: ‘If Phil lived in Melbourne or Los Angeles, he could have the choice of an assisted death and he should be able to have that same choice here.

‘Research out today shows that the vast majority of terminally ill Brits agree that there should be a change in the law in this country to allow assisted dying as an option alongside palliative care.

‘As high profile cases like Mavis Eccleston’s and Ann Whaley’s have demonstrated, the current blanket ban on assisted dying simply does not work. It denies dying people meaningful choice over their death, criminalises loved ones for acts of compassion and fails to protect vulnerable people.

‘A growing body of evidence from the US and Australia shows that it would be far safer for all involved to introduce a transparent assisted dying law that provides choice and control to terminally ill people, takes agonising decisions away from their families, and offers robust protection to the rest of society. We wish Phil success in his appeal so that this evidence may be examined in full.’

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



Find local lawyers and law firms at USAttorneys.com