CHARLES GRAHAM - Why our dignity should prevail

ACTRESS Lorraine Chase spoke bravely this week of her determination to depart this life on her own terms after revealing that she has twice battled cancer.

She is in full possession of her mental faculties and in fact seems in relatively little danger of succumbing to it time.

But she has had two frightening experiences with tumors thus far, knows there is a risk of a recurrence and 16 years ago saw her partner John Knight suffer an agonising and lingering death from lymphoma.

Ms Chase says that if/when the moment comes, she wants to take her own life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

She would be following in the footsteps of a growing number of British people with incurable and life-wreckingly debilitating illnesses who have taken this way out, including the former BBC Philharmonic conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife who decided to end it all together.

That they all still have to travel all the way to Switzerland to achieve their demise is a sadness and unnecessary extra ordeal.

In this country we are tying ourselves in ethical knots over the termination of adult life.

We have perfectly rational people being denied the right to commit suicide and their loved ones threatened with criminal charges if they try to help put them out of their misery. Then we have families up in arms about the supposedly compassionate Liverpool Pathway to Dying in which doctors take it upon themselves to hasten a patient’s end by withdrawing treatment whether the patient likes it or not (as was the case with my elderly godmother).

We’ve got it all wrong here. For sure we must protect those who are vulnerable, those whose judgement may be impaired and have designs on suicide.

But our lives are our own and for those whose illnesses have become irreversibly unbearable, British law should allow them a dignified way out.