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Husband calls for change in law after Chester woman's assisted death

Published date: 14 February 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A PATIENT diagnosed with a rare and degenerative brain condition flew to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland with her husband and a group of friends to end her life.

Ann Hall, 67, decided she couldn't face the agony of her progressive, incurable disease, supranuclear palsy.

Now widower Bob Cole is calling for the law on assisted suicide to be changed, to allow the ending of life at home.

Ann, from Chester, was originally diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012, but this diagnosis was revised in 2013 to supranuclear palsy, which leads to difficulties with speaking and swallowing and loss of eyesight.

She lived most of her life in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, where she was a social worker, then ran Bryn Elltyd, an award-winning guest house with her husband. She was former secretary for Blaenau Chamber of Commerce and husband Bob was a Blaenau councillor. The couple had no children.

Bob says his wife began to research the Dignitas clinic where assisted suicide is legal, after her diagnosis last year.

“By this point Ann couldn’t feed herself or even go to the toilet by herself,” he said.

“She felt it was the right time to end her life. She didn’t want to end up in a home for the next six to 12 months just getting worse.”

The couple, along with a group of close friends, made their way to Zurich on Thursday, February 6 and on Sunday Ann had the lethal solution of barbiturates to end her life.

He said: “Ann joined as a member of the Dignitas clinic in September last year. She had always been open about wanting to die when she chose to if she ever suffered from an incurable disease.

“It wasn’t a shock for me that she wanted to do this, it was what she wanted.

“She began to deteriorate towards the end of last year, and was in a wheelchair by December, so we decided to sell our house in Blaenau Ffestiniog and move to Chester, which suited us as we were still very close to Wales.

“It was then that Ann contacted the clinic to say she wanted to end her life.

“It was a lengthy process from the start as we had to send all medical forms to them about her condition.

“The three days before Ann’s death the doctors made sure she wanted to end her life, and she always said yes to them.

“She was lying on the bed propped up and we all said goodbye to her.

“Before it happened the nurse again asked her if she was sure and she moved her eyes and pressed the button.”

The cost of an assisted death at the clinic is about £6,000, but including travel and medical payments the couple’s total costs amounted to £10,000.

Ann had been an active member of the community of Blaenau, having lived there since 1976. She was one of the founders of Women’s Aid in the town and the Mind Group, and more recently was involved in Blaenau Bendigedig. She was a committed feminist, and kept her own surname after she married Bob in 1991.

Suicide is not a crime, but it is illegal to encourage or assist suicide while in England or Wales, regardless of where the death takes place.

The CPS guidelines published in 2010 make it clear that relatives will not be charged if they act out of compassion to help a terminally-ill person end their suffering.

Mr Cole added: “I’m aware that the police have the right to question me about what’s happened as my wife died abroad, but no-one who has helped any British citizen die at Dignitas has been prosecuted. I’m not worried at all.

“I believe assisted suicide should be made legal in this country, it’s not fair that Ann had to go abroad to end her life when she could have passed away at home.

“The politicians need to have the guts to change this law. You wouldn’t allow a dog or a cat to suffer, so why should a person have to suffer?

“Everyone should be allowed the choice to die with dignity, which is exactly what Ann chose to do.”

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