Woman calls for possibility of a 'better death'

Jenny Carruthers tending to some plants on a fence
Jenny Carruthers cared for her partner in his last weeks, and is now terminally ill herself [BBC]

A woman living with terminal bone cancer is supporting calls for a change in the law around assisted dying.

Jenny Carruthers, from Bath, said: "The possibility for some peace and a better death is there."

Nadine Thomas, from Dursley, in Gloucestershire, has blood cancer, and speaking as politicians in Jersey are due to debate legislation later, said she also wants change.

But Devizes MP Danny Kruger is campaigning against changing the law and said assisted dying legislation around the world is being exploited.

He added that money should be put into better palliative care.

Assisted dying is generally used to describe a situation where someone who is terminally ill seeks medical help to obtain lethal drugs which they administer themselves.

Proposals on a law change were last rejected by the government in July 2022, but while Jersey is part of the British Isles, it sets its own laws and is considering proposals to allow assisted dying.

Ms Carruthers' late partner was Gypie Mayo, guitarist with Dr Feelgood. He died from cancer in 2013.

"In the last 10 months when it spread to his spine, he was in screaming agony," she said.

"We went to endless specialist pain clinics and palliative care trying every option to ease his pain, but it didn't touch the sides.

"It never left him, it was a burning, electrical pain."

Four months before Mr Mayo died, Ms Carruthers and his family held his last birthday party.

"He would have chosen a time soon after that [to die] had he had the choice," she said.

Now Ms Carruthers has terminal bone cancer, and wants to end her life at home.

"I don't want to lose the ability to take care of myself, to get to the toilet on time," she said.

"I'm going to find it very difficult to have someone care for me."

Nadine and Rob Thomas
Nadine Thomas and her husband, Rob, are supporting the call for change in assisted dying laws [BBC]

A high-profile campaign for assisted dying is being led by the broadcaster, Dame Esther Rantzen, who has stage four lung cancer and joined the Dignitas assisted dying clinic in Switzerland.

Euthanasia is illegal under English law and is considered manslaughter or murder.

The Suicide Act of 1961 also made it illegal to encourage or assist a suicide in England and Wales.

'A dignified death'

The call for a change is also echoed by Mrs Thomas who has said there will come a point where her liver, kidneys and bowel could all fail and she could "be paralysed" with no treatment.

"I don't want my family to have to sit there and watch me just vegetate in a bed in pain," she said.

Her father-in-law is also terminally ill.

"The antibiotics have helped him live longer, and in the last three months he has become doubly incontinent, he can't get out of bed, dementia has started to take over," Mrs Thomas said.

Her husband, Rob Thomas, added: "He would have died a dignified death three months ago with his family around him."

Two people dressed as doctors, one carrying a sign reading 'don't make doctors killers'
Campaigners protested outside Parliament before a recent debate on assisted dying [PA]

Changing the law on assisted dying has faced stiff opposition from several MPs, as well as groups like Care Not Killing.

Opponents point to cases in countries like Canada, where assisted dying has been legal since since 2016.

Known as Maid, Canada's Medical Assistance In Dying programme is used by adults with terminal illness.

A 2022 report said that 4.1% of all deaths in Canada were through Maid provision.

That year, a homeless man reportedly applied for assisted dying as an alternative to being homeless. After his story was publicised, $60,000 was raised to find him a home and he withdrew his Maid application.

Critics say this is a prime example of assisted dying laws being exploited.

Danny Kruger speaking in parliament
Devizes MP Danny Kruger supports better palliative care instead of assisted dying [UK Parliament]

Devizes MP Mr Kruger told the BBC: "We should better support the dying and not give this large new right to people who might abuse it quickly.

"All of our efforts and money should be going to make sure people get a good death.

"All of these assisted dying laws are abused in some way or another. People with mental illness or an eating disorder being eligible for an assisted death, for example.

"No country yet has been able to do this right and make it safe for the vulnerable."

Follow BBC Bristol on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to us on email or via WhatsApp on 0800 313 4630.

Related internet links