- Laura McClelland, specialty registrar in anaesthetics, Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, UK
My aunt, Geraldine McClelland (Mo), died at Dignitas in 2011. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, aged 58, and had radical surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Some months later Mo developed a bad cough. The formal diagnosis of metastatic disease took four months. She was breathless after walking from her sofa to her fridge and wasn’t eating. She started palliative chemotherapy and was advised that she could live for up to 18 months. She went into rapid decline and so stopped treatment.
Mo was always clear about her decision to choose a medical death in the event of a terminal diagnosis if she felt her suffering was too great and if she became dependent on others. This was simply her wish.
Mo and her friends worked tirelessly to arrange everything. She had been unaware of how stringent the process was. Dignitas doesn’t promote its services; it just provides them for the small percentage who need them. It’s expensive and involves interminable paperwork. I thought of others like Mo …