BBC Radio Stoke
Your thoughts this morning on 'Euthanasia or the right to die.'
Later in the programme we'll talk to a member of the Isle of
Man Parliament. He's from the House of Keys, which is kind of
similar to the House of Commons, where at the moment they've
got a select committee looking exactly at this issue, whether
residents of the Isle of Man should be given the choice as to
whether or not they live or die. We'll be talking to Quentin
Bennett a little later, from the House of Keys.
one organisation that's been discussing Euthanasia of late is
the Liberal Democrats. Chris Davis is Liberal Democrats MEP for
the Northwest, and he put together the background information
that was shown to the party at their conference last week, and
he says that medically assisted suicide should be made legal.
The principle is simple. We believe that if someone is experiencing
unbearable suffering and has no hope ever of recovering, they
should be able to seek medical assistance to die. Of course pain
relief and palliative care are always going to be the first options
for most people but it is a matter of choice. For people like
Diane Pretty, or Reg Crew, who flew to Switzerland in order to
die, when life has lost all dignity, all meaning, in fact it's
just become a living hell, there should be an alternative.
Why do you think then, based on that position, there isn't an
alternative in Britain at the moment?
I think politicians just wring their hands. Certainly that was
the case, I remember, when Diane Pretty was fighting her way
through the courts trying to secure the right to die under Human
Rights Legislation, the right for her husband to be able to help
her to die. And Diane was saying of course, she was asked one
time, 'look why do you want to stop living?' and she said, 'I
am not living, I am simply not dead. This is not a life.' And
yet politicians all the time were wringing their hands and sympathising
and saying how difficult it all was, but no-one was prepared
to take action. People argue that it's a conscience issue, and
of course it is, it's always a matter for individual choice,
doctors should never be required compulsorily to give assistance
in such cases. But if a patient is asking, and asking repeatedly
to more than one doctor, and to solicitors over a lengthy period
of time, simply saying their life has effectively come to an
end, their life is unbearable, it is no longer worth going on.
If they've done that and a doctor is sympathetic and it's for
care to assist them, then why should they not have the individual
right to make that choice for themselves, and the law needs changing
to accommodate that.
How would you make sure that this system would not be open to
Yes, there's a lot of concern that this is a slippery slope.
That this will lead to the elderly saying, 'oh I'm no longer
wanted by my children, oh I'm a burden, just let me die peacefully
doctor.' Well that's obviously intolerable, that is not the situation
we're talking about. We're talking about the Diane Pretty's of
the world, people struck down by something like motor-neurone
disease, in a situation where they've lost all dignity, where
they're in appalling pain, they're doubly incontinent, they're
paralysed and facing a horrible death. Now in situations like
that we look at the law in Holland, which has effectively been
on the statue books for now some thirty years, and has been copied
in Belgium. And the safeguards are very clear: - you've got to
be an adult, you've got to be in sound mind, you've got to make
your request not just to your local Doctor, but to a specialist
doctor as well, you've got to bring in a solicitor and you've
got to make this request in writing over a lengthy period of
time. And if the doctors have not followed the due process of
law then they face prosecution for murder. So no one is going
to, no doctor is going to risk their futures by abusing the provisions
that are laid down.
What about the people though that would argue that lives are
sacred and it's not down to us to make a decision over whether
or not people should live or die?
That's completely right. They shouldn't make a decision over
other people. But they should respect the right of other people
to make a decision for themselves. Of course if you, I and I
suppose most people who listen to this programme, if you or I
were in a position where life had simply become intolerable,
we'd do something about it. We'd walk off Beachy Head if it were
really just beyond the pail. But if you're paralysed, you're
completely dependant on someone else, of course you're unable
to do anything for yourself, then why should we allow those people
to effectively be tortured, deny them their right to make a final
decision for themselves. I emphasise once again, palliative care
and pain relief should always be the preferred option, but it
is not right to deny individuals the right to make the most important
decision of their lives for themselves.
Chris Davis, Liberal Democrat MEP for the Northwest. Your thoughts
on what he said. If your life's unbearable you should have the
choice. That's his point of view. It should be a last resort
but the option should be open. Here's what people in Hanley we
spoke to earlier had to say on whether we should have the right
'I think everyone has a right to and if
they're in pain, terrible pain, yes.'
'I think people should be given the choice,
especially people who know there's no, you know, and the quality
of life isn't er, will never be any good, you know. Yeah, I think
they should, er, they should be
I mean who'd want live,
just there, somebody pushing a tube down you.'
'As long as there are proper controls and
its clearly with the will of the person and there are all the
safeguards and protocols around that, in certain circumstances,
if people are, you know, terminally ill, clearly in a lot of
pain and feel that the end has come, then yes, I would probably
agree with that, but I feel that there would need to be proper
Proper safeguards. How do we ensure that there are?
It's BBC Radio Stoke, nineteen minutes past ten. This morning
discussing euthanasia medically assisted suicide and whether
or not we should have a right to die.
minutes past ten and joining me now is Gill Gerhardi, who runs
the Will to Live Campaign Website. Gill; thank you for coming
Good morning. Thank you for having me.
Why do you think that euthanasia is a bad idea?
Because people are not getting the correct level of care and
equipment to take part properly. In life even if they are seriously
ill, or severely disabled, there are ways and means of helping
us to keep going and helping us to feel valued and fulfilled.
We don't need to end it all just because someone else decides
that we're not worth it any more. And doctors are doing that
all the time anyway now, which I really do believe is so wrong,
because a friend of mine had been offered a way out until three
years ago, even before all of this was a big topic, I thank God
they didn't take if because they've got very happy, very well
strung working life again now, and at that point life didn't
look very rosy at all and the right to die just means that people
can give up very easily and the professionals can give up as
well. They don't need to worry about palliative care, that's
what's happened in Holland where euthanasia is legal. There palliative
care is no longer a important medical system. They don't need
it. All they've got to do is throw the switch.
If there had been a right to die in Britain, would that have
influenced you? Would you have perhaps taken a decision?
Yes it would, yes. I've been moderately disabled all my life.
I have done as much as I can to get over it and get on with it.
But then three years ago I was diagnosed with illness on top
of the other one and my abilities went downhill quite quickly
and I didn't have the help, I didn't have the care, and if fell
to my poor husband to try to look after me. And it was very,
very difficult. And without killing him to start with I did get
suicidal, I did want to end my life and I'm afraid that I know
that from the ways doctors have always dealt with me and the
way they talk to you quite often, that they don't like your life
if you are disabled. They do what they can for you, yes of course,
but they don't think of you as proper functioning members of
Do they look at you then, do they value your life less than they
would someone else's.
Yes. Yes, definitely. And that is what's coming out over and
over again. There was a big thing last year from a lady called
Jen Canbon, who is severely disabled and had been since birth,
but she is a very, very high ranking person. She is a disability
rights Commissioner and she runs other very, very high-ranking
organisations, but she had to go into hospital for intensive
care last year. And twice the doctors told her that if she became
unconcious they would turn the life support machine off, and
the poor girl had to say, wait for 48 hours just to make sure
they don't do it.
How do you think introducing a law would change that then? Because
from what you're saying, and there's research that's come out
in the British Medical Journal as well, that suggests that assisted
suicide, medically assisted suicide is happening anyway, and
from what you're telling me it is happening anyway.
Yes, it is.
How would a change in the law mean it was any different?
It wouldn't and that's why I'm here. What we've got at the moment
is the doctors organisation, the GMC and the BMA have both got
guidelines which say that they can withold medical treatment
and included in that is artificially giving food and water. So
anybody who can't swallow or who can't talk to say what they
want and how they want it is very vulnerable at the moment and
those guidelines are being contested in the high court by Leslie
Burke. Right now the judge is deliberating and has been for the
last three weeks and I understand that it could have taken a
bit longer yet to come to outset that Leslie Burke says that
the doctors guidelines, allowing them to negate his human rights
and its those guidelines that need to be scrapped now.
We'll look some more at human rights in a few moments time, Gill.
Keep your calls coming in. You can email, you can text your opinion
on whether or not you think we should be given a right to die.
Whether medically assisted suicide or euthanasia should be made
legal in Britain. Emma's
on the line in Blurton. Hello Emma.
What do you think about this then?
Well, I don't know exactly what the rules are today. I mean,
I know a couple of years ago we found out that, and it was put
on your programme, that DNR (Do not Resuscitate) is put on patients
notes when they decide to let them die. That's just, I didn't
ring up for that, but that happened then two years ago. I don't
know if it still happens now. My story is nothing compared to
the other lady who's just been on. Thirty years ago I had the
choice of whether to let my husband die on the operating table
or give him eighteen months to live. Now he wasn't given the
choice, I was given the choice. It's not a hard one to take when
you're faced with that. You just take the lie. You don't say,
'oh yes, go on and operate', you just take the lie. And I don't
know what they do now. I think they tell the patients now, don't
they. I think they tell the patient all the facts.
How was this subject broached with you though Emma? What did
the doctor actually say?
Well, it was at the Lantern Cottage Hospital he saw me and my
husband was with me in the waiting room and I went to see him
and he just gave you the choice. He told me the story and that
was the choice I had. You know I've got three little children
so it was a hard, well it wasn't a hard decision, I just took
the lies, you know.
But was your husband in a position to make that decision for
Yes, yes. He was, yes. It was never told to him, but I was asked,
'did I want him told', and I said no, and that was the way I
carried on for nineteen months, lying as I hope, you know. But
he suffered a lot towards the end and I wondered if I'd done
the right thing.
I was just going to ask, did you feel you made the right decision?
Well, towards the end, no I didn't. But I'd have still have done
it. You know, I mean you just don't say, 'oh yes let him be operated
on, I know he's going to die, I'll arrange the funeral'. You
just don't do that, do you? Well I didn't. I couldn't.
Can I just say Emma, the only reason you feel you made the wrong
decision at the end was because you weren't getting and he wasn't
getting all the care and all the medical support.
No that's right. I did it all myself. I never had any help at
all, thirty years ago.
All I can say is well done.
You know it was very hard.
No it's not easy at all.
Emma, thanks for your call this morning. Good to talk to you.
Okay thank you. Goodbye.
More than happy to take questions this morning. BBC Radio Stoke
with Stuart George.
Kevin in Kidsgrove says that his mother died with cancer and
says that yes a person should be given the right to die. It can
be summed up with three words die with dignity, says Kevin.
Elsie in Cobridge says that she agrees with euthanasia. She knows
someone who wants to die because they are so unhappy. And Sid
in Taulk said that his wife had a brain tumour and went from
looking like a sixty year old lady to a one hundred year old
lady in three years. He also agrees that euthanasia should be
made legal. With me in the studio is Gill Gerhardi from the Will
to Live Campaign Website and Gill's been outlining some of the
reasons why she thinks medically assisted suicide should not
be made legal in the UK. Also with Gill is Gill's husband Vic.
Thanks for coming in Vic. What's your position on this? We've
had lots of people saying, yes it should be allowed, 'Die with
Dignity' is one statement we've heard this morning. What do you
Well, I must admit before Gill got into this, I really wasn't,
I didn't really want to think about it really. It was sort of;
well, if it happened it happened. But now that she's getting,
she's getting into it I can really see the other side of the
argument. I mean if you've only got three weeks to live, why
make it shorter? We're all going to die sometime. It's just a
question of when and should we actually have the choice of doing
it. It's an interesting subject.
I guess when you're disabled anyway life is very difficult, but
you do understand that life is very precious. Whatever you can
get out of life you've got to do it. You've got to spend time
with your family if that's all you can do. That is worth so much
to everybody around you, or it should be. I do understand that
relatives watching an ill or disabled person going downhill,
not being able to do so much are in a very unhappy position because
they can see happiness in front of their eyes. They can't escape
it and that's what they've got to understand, that, that person
whatever they were is still there regardless of what they can
or can't do. And if they are suffering there are lots and lots
of ways for that to be dealt with. It's not just putting someone
in bed and leaving them to cope with agony. There are lots of
different ways of coping with pain and with emotional and mental
anguish as well. The hospice movement spends a lot of time dealing
with that side not just the physical side.
We're taking lots
of calls on this, this morning, as you can imagine. Barry's in
Oakhill. Morning Barry.
Good Morning. Is this Stuart?
Good Morning Stuart. Firstly I'd like to congratulate that lady,
Gill, you've got there. I have got her name right haven't I?
Yes, what a fantastic lady to come on the radio like this. Now
my wife has got a brain disease. She's in about the same condition
as Gill for talking.
And I'm totally against euthanasia. Now what she said earlier
on, Gill, and I'd like to expand on it, was the care. If people
in Gill's condition and my wife's condition have got proper care
there's no need to talk about euthanasia.
That's right. Too right.
Now what I want to say is, and she'll know Gill will know, is
what you've got called is the Independent Living Fund. And how
that works is that you can only get it between sixteen and sixty-six
years of age. After sixty-six you can't claim it, which is a
I've taken that up with Mark Fisher, the Stoke MP, and I've also
taken it up with the minister regarding this. He said he'd look
Good idea. That's what we need.
Now what he said is that if people have got proper 24 hour care,
proper carers, now these agency firms can't look after people
like my wife. They can't do it. It's impossible for them to do.
If there was proper caring, the money put there to do it, then
there's no need for people to think along this way at all.
Do you think then, Barry, that even though it's not legal there's
evidence, we've heard evidence from Gill this morning, there's
evidence in research that's been published about assisted suicides
taking place that even though they're technically illegal, on
an almost daily basis it seems. That this is actually an excuse
not to put money into the care system and actually to just write
That's right. Now, I don't ever want to go down that road. I'll
tell you why. It's because in the history of this world we have
gone down that road once, and that was with a bloke called Adolf
Hitler. His answers to the mentally ill and physically ill was
the gas chamber, and he used to gas people.
Yes, that's right.
And if we start going down this road we go down a very, very
dangerous road. And I'm totally, totally against it. I know there's
people can be in pain and want to go, but they do that... my
wife has asked me to do her in. She's asked me to do her in because
we haven't got the care. And I've got to say the only person,
I'm going to thank him again on the air, has been our MP, Mark
Fisher. I've had to ring him up and everything and Mark has helped
us. If I hadn't have known Mark I don't know where I'd have been
with it. But he has gone and pressed the right button, gone to
the right Minister, done this, that and the other. Now there
are people out there who have probably not got the contact with
a minister like I've had to help them. Now that shouldn't be.
It should be a 100% care put there for these people. No argy-bargy.
We've had the social security people come down to look at my
wife and they were telling me it was a waste of time. Doctors
have been from the social security to check up on, and everything.
It's absolutely unbelievable.
Barry, when she asked you to end it how did you feel saying you
wouldn't do it?
Well, I could understand why she was thinking that way because
the situation just gets hopeless. Like the only person I've turned
to, to help me, has been Mark Fisher, you know what I mean. Like
I say, if it were another bloke I'd be in a lot of trouble.
You've done so very well.
Now, I'd love my wife to meet Gill. If she could ever get down
here she'd love to meet you.
It's a shame. I wish she could come down and talk to her. Because
she can talk about the same way as you can, Gill. She can understand
everything that's going on; you know what I mean. But I want
to congratulate you for going on the radio and trying to put
this point over. You've done a great job this morning.
Yeah, you have done, yeah.
Thanks for your call Barry.
Cheers. Bye. Barry in Oakhill.
the line in Wearington. Morning Jeanette
Good morning Stuart, and how are you?
I'm all right thanks. How are you?
I'm alright thank you.
Good. What do you want to say?
Well. I think I can understand what the lady's saying. I've had
a cousin whose been disabled from birth, very severely disabled,
but she's able to keep a, she's been able to look after herself.
But when you come to a stage in your life where you are dependent
on someone else to do your toiletries, I think that is the time
to go. I know there are unscrupulous people about and I know
other people have got to be protected so whether it's a pro for
or euthanasia or how, I don't know how to be approached. But
I think there are people that would, would really be able to
take your life or people take a life for them. There's nothing
wrong with me at the minute, but my daughters know that if the
time comes when I am on a machine, or even if I'm not on a machine,
I am in bed, that someone's got to feed me, or to do my toiletries,
then I would have, I wouldn't like help for me to go. Because
I don't think anybody, when they reach that stage deserves to
loose their dignity.
Can I just say though I did fully appreciate what you were saying,
and I accept that for you now that is how you feel, but if when
you get to that point you've got the level of care which allows
you to say what you want done when and how then you don't loose
your dignity because you are still in control.
Do you feel in the system we are in at the moment Gill, do you
still feel in control?
I am . When I got to the point that life wasn't worth living
Vic got on his high horse.
I got annoyed. I got annoyed when Gill said, 'Oh, I'm fed up.
I want to end it all'. Because I didn't want her to go, that
isn't the person that I knew so I
It is hard work getting
the care and the facilities that you need, because
It's not what they want to give you.
Yeah, because other people have different, they have different
criteria, isn't that the word that we were told by one of them?
They're not allowed to do this. They're not allowed to do that.
Yes, it doesn't meet their criteria. But that isn't looking at
it from our point of view it, it's from their point of view.
They agreed in the end.
We had to go to our County Councillor and get him to help.
Yeah, we did, which is similar to how that other chap said he
got in touch with his MP.
Barry. Yes, this is something that we'll talk more about after
the news because it does seem that there's a real issue with
getting the care that people deserve and actually avoiding that.
Something we'll come onto in a few moments time after the travel
and news at eleven.
On the programme so
far we've been talking about medically assisted suicide and euthanasia
and whether or not as individuals we should be given the right
to die. With me in the studio this morning we've got Gill and
Vic Gerhardi from the Will to Live Campaign. Some comments that
have come in through the morning so far. Keith in Congolton had
a comment to make. Barbara in Normacott says would you still
feel the same if your husband wasn't looking after you, Gill?
I needed his love a lot. And I need that still but he doesn't
do a lot of the physical caring now. He does drive me around.
I know I drive him mad.
What drive you round the bend or something? No, we do have full-time
care now as well as me so that's made it a lot easier.
How hard did you have to fight to get that though?
Oh it was pretty hard work.
It was very hard work.
But once you get it then you're in. But it's actually filling
in all the forms, finding out all the details.
And it's knowing what's available. If you don't know what's available
If people don't come around and say, 'ah, all you've got to do
is this, especially if you're family members then they say, oh
well, you got a family member looking after you, carry on the
way you are, sort of thing.
To be exact they have, in the end they have been very good to
But it was very hard to get them to listen to what we needed.
I think the other point is that because we both had a disability
to start with we knew that you, to get anything done, you actually
had to do things to get it done
We knew how to do it.
Whereas if somebody gets a problem like this they don't
know where to turn to and they don't know how to get the help.
Okay. Well one of
the areas where the ideas of euthanasia or medically assisted
suicide is being seriously considered at the moment is the Isle
of Man from where we can now speak to Quentin Gill who is an
Independent Member of the Isle of Mann's lower House of Parliament,
the House of Keys. Good Morning.
What's brought this about then? Why is there suddenly such public
debate on the island about whether or not euthanasia should be
Well it's not a sudden development. But in this instance a colleague
of mine in the House of Keys moved a private members bill and
that was then referred to a select committee to consider the
issues and to report back and that's the stage that we're at,
at the moment.
You're chairing the select committee that looks into this. Was
there something that triggered this or not?
Well there was a case that attracted quite a lot of publicity
and sympathy, of a gentleman who was a constituent of mine, and
of the colleague who moved the private members bill. He had terminal
cancer and has subsequently, sadly, died. But his request was
for somebody to at least explore the issues with a view that
his suffering and his circumstances could actually lead to a
review of the legislation.
What sense of public feeling on this, on the island?
Well, we had a programme undertaken by Boarder Television, which
is the regional company that covers the Isle of Man. They did
a pole and the findings on that were overwhelmingly in favour
of consideration of legislation, but with the very strong caveat
that the legislation has to be regulated so that it's very, very
clearly as astringent as possible and is only for people who
are resident on the Isle of Man.
How would you be able to police that then? Because I can see
a situation where people might be thinking, 'well we'll go to
the Isle of Man and do it there then.' In the way that some people
have gone to Switzerland, for example.
I think that that's probably unlikely. I think, my own experience
would be that if perhaps you were tragically advised that you
had an incurable condition, the last thing that you would probably
want to do, or probably most people in Stoke on Trent, I would
hazard, is move to the Isle of Man, where I've got no connection
and no knowledge of the place. But certainly for those exceptional
cases where people would have that in mind, the regulations would
have to be couched in such a way that it would be very clear
they were for people who did have a long-term commitment here.
And we could prove that in many ways. Registration with doctors
surgeries, or registration for tax purposes. The onus would be
for the person to prove that they have a long-term commitment
to the Isle of Man. So I'm confident that there is a mechanism
to guard against that abuse.
How would this work then, because the legislative process on
the Isle of Man is different to that in the rest of the UK. So
would it have any influence, or could the British Government
have any influence on whichever decision you take on it?
Well, the legislative process is the same as Westminster, but
we are a legislature, a body in our own right, we are a parliament,
so we make our own laws. And the UK has a relationship, as with
other Crown dependencies where they are responsible for what
is termed 'good government'. And effectively that means to ensure
there's not rioting on the streets or civil disorder. We don't
anticipate that although the UK Government might have a contrary
view about voluntary euthanasia to perhaps the Isle of Man Parliament,
if indeed that's how this progresses, that they would extent
that opposition to blocking any legislation that we feel is fit
for our domestic purpose.
If it were to progress in that direction and voluntary euthanasia
were to be legalised on the Isle of Man, how quickly could the
process take place? How long does it take for you to come up
with an idea for a law, at the stage you're at, to then actually
make it law.
There isn't a timescale that's set down. We can and we have on
exceptional occasions suspended standing orders of our parliament
and put through an act in one day. We can do all the readings
in one day if we put it to the legislative council, our other
side of the house and get that accepted. Now, we wouldn't do
this in a matter of this sensitivity and importance. In fact
we would do the opposite. We would take a longer rather than
shorter time to explore the issues as fully as we could, and
that's what we are in the middle of now. So I don't think I can
give you a timescale to answer to that but we're talking long
months and years, not a short time.
And one other point, you mentioned the safeguards a moment ago.
What kind of safeguards are you looking at to bring in before
whether or not you even want to make this law?
The underpinning principle of this is that it's about choice.
That this legislation would allow people a choice if their circumstances
are such, but that choice would have to be explored and tested
very fully by medical people, by psychiatrists, by a councillor
perhaps. The family would have to probably have a role in that
decision making process as well and the clear ethos would have
to be that if people wanted to opt out at any juncture, then
that would be taken as given. So it's very clearly, the safeguards
would be as firm as possible to ensure the person was being given
a free choice, and that choice is being honoured, but there's
no coercion or influence adversely being brought to bear.
Okay, Quentin Gill from the Isle of Man, thanks very much for
joining us on the programme this morning. Quentin from the Isle
of Man's House of Keys on how they're looking at the situation.
One of the points that
was raised, Gill, is choice. We live in a supposedly free society.
Why can't we then choose whether we live or die?
Because nobody else has that choice. We don't encourage people
to commit suicide just because they feel like it. We do everything
to get them through that stage and make everything better. So
why is it that if you are severely ill or disabled all of that
goes out the window? They don't care any more. You can die. I
think that is catastrophically wrong.
Well the other thing that came over there was what safeguards
would people put in. I mean, really we've got a situation here
where euthanasia is illegal in this country
But it's happening anyway
We know its happening. We haven't actually got the law
that actually gives you any safeguards because you're not actually
supposed to do it in the first place. So my real question is
why aren't doctors being, sort of, pulled up for doing it? Because
they must be breaking the law for this to happen now.
Can you see though the doctors' viewpoint? If someone says to
them, 'look really I feel I have no dignity, I feel there's no
way I can go on,' regardless of whether the care infrastructure's
right or wrong, if as a doctor someone says that to you it's
a very difficult decision and you have to be a very hard person
to say, no I'm not going to help.
I think it is a difficult decision and that's why we're all here.
Can I just say that in Holland where it is legal to have medically
assisted suicide, that allows 20% of older people that die in
that way do it without their own consent. The doctors impose
it on them. It doesn't matter what the safeguards are. They are
very easily got round.
So regardless of any safeguards you would be unhappy with any
kind of pro-euthanasia Law?
Yes. It devalues our lives. It makes us worth less than you are
Well, it's been absolutely fascinating speaking to both of you.
Thanks so much for coming all the way up from Buckinghamshire
to talk to us today.
And the website for more information: - www.WillToLive.co.uk
Gill Gerhardi, Vic Gerhardi, thanks very much for coming on the
programme this morning.