Last year in England, a 57-year old man, terminally-ill with motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig’s syndrome), ended his life at home after three unsuccessful attempts. He had planned to go to Dignitas, in Zurich, but was unable to do so because “he could not afford it”.
Mainly arising from this incident, TLC— The Last Choice has been established, principally by Dr. Michael Irwin. Its main objectives are:
- Give advice on how Dignitas can help the terminally-ill in the UK (eg: explain what happens in Zurich; how to get one’s medical records in the UK, etc)
- Provide a financial grant, if this is necessary
- Provide a volunteer to escort someone to Zurich, if this is required.
A small organizing committee has been formed whose membership will remain a secret for the present because English law, in the 1961 Suicide Act, says that it is a crime (punished by up to 14 years’ imprisonment) if one “aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another”.
Because of this need for relative secrecy, Dr. Irwin says, “we feel rather like the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’, but in the reverse direction, as this fictitious character rescued nobility during the French revolution and helped them to escape to England.” So far, TLC has received pledges totaling $9,000.
“As the English parliament is unlikely to legalize physician-assisted suicide for another decade or so, it is now vital to also challenge the English legal authorities so that the decriminalization of assisted suicide gradually becomes a reality here. We hope that the activities of TLC will help to do this over the coming years. And, if TLC (UK) is successful, perhaps a TLC (Europe) will follow?” Irwin said. TLC can be contacted through email.
On May 8 The Daily Telegraph in London reported on the activities of TLC with a picture of Dr. Irwin, thus bringing the legal issues to public attention.