NI group campaigns for assisted suicide

Published Wednesday, 19 March 2014
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A new group in Northern Ireland is campaigning for a change in legislation to allow terminally ill patients the right to die.

NI group campaigns for assisted suicide
Bert Rima is campaigning for assisted suicide to be made legal. (© UTV)

They will be campaigning locally for terminally ill people to have the right to choose an assisted death and better access to good quality end-of-life care.

Bert Rima's wife, Barbara, took her own life in October 2009 because she couldn't cope with living in pain after being diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time as well as dealing with Multiple Sclerosis which left her in a wheelchair.

"It became impossible for her to control the pain and that is where essentially her desperation started to manifest itself, probably in about the summer of 2009," he told UTV.

"To see her succumbing to this very aggressive recurrence of the breast cancer was quite terrible really, the disease progressed so far that she really was in a position where she felt that she couldn't go on."

They had planned to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland, but Barbara became too ill to travel.

She died alone to protect her husband from being sent to prison for helping her to die.

"I feel almost bitter about the fact I wasn't there when she had to do that by herself," he said.

"But she was courageous enough to do that by herself in my absence so that she knew that I wasn't going to be able to be prosecuted."

Mr Rima said the way she died was "unnecessarily cruel" for both of them.

He is now fronting the regional branch of the Dignity in Dying group, which campaigns for a change in the law to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the choice of an assisted death under strict legal safeguards.

In the coming months MPs are set to vote on an Assisted Dying Bill, introduced by Lord Falconer, which could allow doctors in England and Wales to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who make the choice to end their lives.

Previous attempts have failed, with both Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stating they oppose the move.

In 2009, Multiple Sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy won a significant legal argument that it was a breach of her human rights not to know whether her husband would be prosecuted if he accompanied her to Dignitas.

Her case paved the way for dozens of others to travel with their loved ones without fear of prosecution.

Mr Rima hopes by highlighting his painful journey a change in the law will ensure others like Barbara will not be forced to die alone.

He added: "I think you have to be aware of the desperation and the utter terribleness of the situation that some people find themselves in.

"I think anyone with some empathy for their fellow human being would say if they request to be helped to die, in my opinion it is very clear that we should provide that option."

© UTV News
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2 Comments
Larry in Belfast wrote (153 days ago):
I know I don't understand what people are going through mentally and physically, but I believe people need to think long and hard before they launch themselves into eternity. Death is definitely not the end, and I believe too many do not know they could be entering a 'lost' eternity unless they have made their peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, too, not believing does not change the truth as recorded in God's word the Bible.
Belfast in Belfast wrote (157 days ago):
Agree 100% why should you suffer when you wouldn't let an animal suffer in fact you would be took to court if you let your pet live in the pain that some humans are forced to live in.
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