The process of gathering, creating, selecting, researching and sequencing continues. A next step is to start drafting a set of words that can be used to go with, around, before or after the images. No decisions other than use of voiceover and other media is to be used with the intent of enhancing the visual experience of the work.
L – ‘Thank you for being the most amazing part of my life. You are my soulmate, best friend and made me who I am. I am so lucky to have had you in my life. I love you forever my Darling.’
K – ‘I love you too darling. No woman was ever loved more than you have loved me.’
L – ‘I will be joining you soon.’
K – ‘Not too soon I hope. Have some fun and give me a bit of a break. After all, for me, it has been forty long long years!”
L – ‘Ha ha and for me it went in a blink. You will be with me always and every day every bird I see will be part of you. I love you so much.’
K – ‘Love you darling. Look after the boys for me.’
Thirty minutes later Karen, my wife and soulmate of forty years, died peacefully in a blue house on an industrial estate in Pfaffikon in Switzerland. It is the morning of January 27th, 2020 and her wishes have been met. After years of insufferable pain and in the end almost total paralysis she has died with Dignity with the help of Dignitas in Switzerland.
This was a moment in which I was perplexed and faced a gargantuan loss. The person who meant more to me than anything else in the world wanted to end her pain and suffering and it was too early for me to lose her. She did not want to live completely paralysed and in pain and took a brave and strong decision that she wished to end her life. I was not involved in her decision but said I would support any decision she took. I desperately miss her.
After she died and I returned home some were shocked when I described it as a ‘beautiful way to die.’ What I meant by this was that her wishes were being met, her pain would be over, she was surrounded by those who loved her and she was at ease. The staff at Dignitas were outstanding and spiritual in the way they went about their role. They repeatedly asked Karen if she was sure she wanted to do this and must feel free to change her mind. Every time she said ‘I am absolutely sure. I want this pain to be over. Please, please as soon as we can.’
Liai Abril has presented a bold and confident documentary ‘On Abortion’ as Chapter One within her wider work ‘A History of Misogyny.’ In it she documents and raises awareness of the horrific risks and consequences for women who wish to abort but live in countries where abortion is illegal. Barbaric procedures continue today. It shocked me to hear Mike Pence refer to legitimate rape ‘In Congress, Pence co-sponsored a bill that would have redefined rape and limited federal funding for abortion to women who suffered “forcible rape”—what Akin famously described as “legitimate rape” ‘ (The Nation). Sadly he is not alone and many believe has the support of Donald Trump.
Laia’s work made me ask if I should be equally bold about the rights of people suffering at the end of life to choose when to end their life. I have lived with someone suffering for thirty years with Multiple Sclerosis getting worse year by year. I wanted her to live but in the end understood the suffering she was experiencing was something she no longer had the energy to continue with. She was looking at a slow death of up to twenty years during which time her internal organs and muscles would become paralysed. Eventually she would die unable to breath. Or she could choose to end her suffering.
The map here shows the scale of the issue. There are fewer countries permitting assisted suicide than there are that allow abortion. My view is that under carefully controlled laws and regulations there are cases where a human being in immense suffering should be allowed to make the choice to end their life with dignity. The laws in Switzerland and the procedures followed by Dignitas are a good model to be copied.
None of this has been easy for me. I have been close to suicide myself on three occasions. I saw myself as a failure for not finding a cure for the love of my life and not finding a way for her to die in her own bed at the end of her life. After she died I became seriously depressed and have had to work with my doctor, a therapist and antidepressants to get through the grief.
Karen’s decision was sound. She took her decision in June 2019 with two friends who had worked through the issue with her. She told me in early August 2019. She had been in touch with Dignitas since 2015. She had attempted suicide and failed in 2010. The Dignitas process is incredibly detailed and all the time focusses on encouraging the member to find a way to live. A full psychiatric assessment is required along with detailed medical records covering twenty years of her life.
From the moment she took the decision until January 27th this year she never wavered. Two days before she went to Switzerland I said I was finally becoming calm about the decision. I had been trying to think of other solutions that would be acceptable to her. She said ‘it is not your decision and you would not be able to change my mind.’
Our children Alex, Tom and Dan supported her decision and understood. All of our friends, including strongly religious people, understood what she wanted to do and why. Her carers and medical staff admired how she had fought on for so long and fully supported her decision.
Those who argue against the right to die claim it is God’s will or that too many will be killed by their relatives for money. Usually those who argue the case do not represent the view of the people who put them in power.
Abril, Laia. 2018. A History of Misogyny. Chapter One – On Abortion. [online] available at https://www.laiaabril.com/project/on-abortion/ (Accessed: July 24th, 2020)
The Nation. 2016. Mike Pence is a Smooth Talking Todd Akin. [online] available at ://www.thenation.com/article/archive/mike-pence-is-a-smooth-talking-todd-akin/ (Accessed: 24th July, 2020).
Euthanasia Map. [online]. Available in Wikipedia at https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia#/media/File:Euthanasia_and_the_Law.png (accessed: July 24th, 2020).
The Guardian. 2019. Legalise assisted dying for terminally ill, say 90% of people in UK. [online] Available at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/03/legalise-assisted-dying-for-terminally-ill-say-90-per-cent-of-people-in-uk (Accessed: 24th July, 2020)