Dignity in Dying is a campaign to change UK law to allow the choice of an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults within upfront safeguards. They are asking for:
- CHOICE over where we die, who is present and our treatment options.
- ACCESS to expert information on our options, good quality end-of-life care.
- CONTROL over how we die, our symptoms, pain relief and planning our own death.
West Berkshre Dignity in Dying is a friendly group who meet to raise awareness of the Dignity in Dying campaign, who aim to introduce an assisted dying law in the UK, for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. If you would like to get involved or just learn more about the campaign, please join us. Please email Sara Fenton on [email protected] to reserve a place, as spaces are limited.
Sara is from Hungerford and has been a local Dignity in Dying campaigner since her husband Keith, who had the incurable Huntington’s Disease, chose to end his own life. See their story below.
The Royal College of Surgeons announced in June 2023 that they have dropped their opposition to assisted dying. They follow a growing number of medical bodies dropping their opposition, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Nursing, which have all adopted a neutral stance after surveying the views of their members.
If anyone would like further information about the Dignity in Dying campaign or West Berkshire DiD group please email Sara on [email protected] or join the Dignity in Dying West Berkshire Facebook group
Sara and Keith Fenton
Sara Fenton accompanied her husband Keith to Switzerland for an assisted death in 2017. He had previously attempted suicide due to his neuro-degenerative Huntington’s Disease. He had seen his father, brother and sister die from this disease and he knew what was to come. He did not want to end up being trapped inside his body having all his needs taken care of by someone else and losing all dignity.
Since Keith’s death, Sara has campaigned for the Dignity in Death law to be changed here in the UK so that people don’t have to travel abroad and can have legal, assisted suicide in the last 6 month’s of a terminal illness.
Keith was a soldier for 35 years and was used to being in control, but as the disease took hold he was unable to do every day things. He would regularly fall over, he was unable to control his moods, he would choke on his food, he had difficulty processing every day routines – he said he was losing control of his life.
“In April 2017 it all became too much for Keith and he tried to take his own life,” explains Sara. “It was so sad to watch his decline and to see him struggle more every day was so hard. I knew I had to take him seriously and let him go to Dignitas.
“There are many safeguards to go through, and rightly so, before you are accepted to go to Dignitas. When Keith got the green light to go, he was a changed person. It was like a weight was lifted off his shoulders; he was back in control, he was happy again! He wanted to start seeing friends again, go out on day trips and live the next few weeks to the full.
“Before we left for Switzerland, we were expecting it to be very sad, but the truth is we had an amazing time, making happy memories, telling each other everything we wanted to. It wasn’t easy but it was made easier by the fact Keith was so determined, positive and brave. His passing was peaceful and dignified; the complete opposite of what it would have been had he continued to live with his illness.
“Keith kept saying it was wrong he had to go to Switzerland to end his life. The truth is, like many who travel to Switzerland, he probably went a lot sooner than he needed to for fear of missing the chance to go. I promised him I would join the campaign to change the law in this county and that is now my focus.
“When death is inevitable suffering should not be. The sad part is that we could have enjoyed more time together if he could have had an assisted death in this country.”
To hear more, listen to Sara’s BBC radio interview (from 22 mins 23 secs): www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07fq0tl
At the 27 April 2021 All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Choice at the End of Life, Sara’s question was posed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock:
“When someone is given the reassurance of knowing they will die peacefully and painlessly, the fear of death is removed and they can spend the precious few days they have left living their life. How can we justify telling terminally ill people they must endure suffering and pain in their final days, rather than having quality time with their loved ones?”
Matt Hancock replied “it was a very powerful way of putting it, each death by its nature is different and that strengthens the argument for choice and strengthens the argument for people to have their wishes taken as the primary consideration.”
Watch here from 27 minutes APPG for Choice at the End of Life.