A blessed relief or a step too far? As assisted dying bill goes before Lords, a widower gives a heartbreaking account of wife’s final days while a palliative care expert says the law should NOT change

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A teacher all her life and, at one point, the head of two village primary schools, Carol Claw was a supremely organized figure who did not miss a chance.

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Her husband Neil, who is also a teacher, left the profession in 2000 to raise their two children, Ben, now 29, and Alex, 25, to allow Carol to focus on her career.

‘Carol was a wonderful teacher,’ Neil says. ‘He changed so many lives.’


Carol’s health had declined over 20 years, as a result of a large, benign but dormant cyst on her pancreas, which forced her to take early retirement in 2017, when she was in her mid-50s.

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Just as she knew what she wanted in her professional life, Carol knew exactly what she wanted, or didn’t want, when she died on her own.

Her health had declined over 20 years as a result of a large, benign but dormant cyst on her pancreas, which forced her to take early retirement in 2017 in her mid-50s.

‘She was very clear that she didn’t want to die slowly and painfully,’ Neil explains. ‘And it was important to her that our children didn’t see her suffer.’

Although exceptionally harsh, Carol was adamant that if her suffering became too much, she wanted him to end her life. ‘She was very good at planning ahead,’ says Neil.

‘She and I had many, very open discussions and she would always say: “I want to go to Switzerland” [where euthanasia is legal]. We agreed that if life becomes unbearable for him, I will do everything I can to not let him suffer.’

But in the end, Carol deteriorated so quickly that there was no time to plan a trip: Two weeks before her death, Carol, 59, was pottering around the garden of her home near Salisbury, but within days she had already Was very weak since then. For travelling.

Although exceptionally harsh, Carol was adamant that if her suffering became too much, she wanted him to end her life

Although exceptionally harsh, Carol was adamant that if her suffering became too much, she wanted him to end her life

And his death on 22 August this year was both long and painful. While Neil tries hard to focus on the happy times, memories of his last days run through his mind.

Neil has nothing but admiration for the palliative care team that cared for Carol in her final days: ‘But most people accept the questions Carol asked were the same questions patients asked her every day. Asking: “Why won’t they let me go? I just want to be allowed to die”, he says.

‘ Instead I was forced to look as he looked me in the eye and said weakly: “But you promised. You told me you wouldn’t let this happen to me.” ‘

Physician-assisted death (where a doctor issues a prescription for a dose of a lethal drug but does not administer it), and euthanasia (where the doctor also gives an injection) in an increasing number of countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand is legal. , Spain and several US and Australian states.

But they are illegal in the UK. And while palliative medicine provides support and care when nothing else can be done to treat one’s illness, Neil says it didn’t allow Carol the peaceful death she so desperately wanted.

Carol was fit and healthy until 2000, when, at the age of 30, she collapsed from severe pain and was taken to hospital by ambulance. ‘She described the pain as “worse than childbirth,” recalls Neil. The scan revealed a grape-sized cyst on her pancreas.

Although the cyst was benign, the couple were told that it would be too dangerous to operate because of the risk of life-threatening complications.

Her doctor explained that the tumor would grow and eventually affect the function of her pancreas and other organs.

‘We accepted it and we kept going,’ says Neil. ‘Although often in pain, Carol refuses to hold him back. School was her child and she was not going to let it slip for anything.’

But Carol’s pancreas stopped producing insulin and she developed type 1 diabetes, then diabetic nephropathy (loss of kidney function) and, in 2019, began dialysis three times a week.

She also developed diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina, the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye), which made her nearly blind by the end of 2020. Above all, the cyst continuously leaked fluid into her abdomen, causing nausea and vomiting.

As a young child, Alex remembers his mother being sick every morning. ‘For as long as I can remember, she had sickness and diarrhea,’ she recalls. ‘But she was such a fighter that, no matter how terrible she felt, she would go to school.’

In their last few weeks, Neil and Alex began to sit by Carol’s bedside. a syringe driver [a fine needle inserted under the skin, connected to a pump] Gave her an opium to treat the severe pain and a benzodiazepine to sedate her and she slept through the day, but she became more agitated at night, when Neil and Alex would often call 111 because they needed her distress. It seemed unbearable.

‘ She would grab and open her hands begging us: “Please . . . Sufficient. Can’t you let me go now? . ?” Alex told me.

Propaganda groups such as Dignity in Dying and My Death, My Decision (MDMD) argue that it is time to change the law in the UK – and, according to a national survey commissioned by MDMD in 2019, more than 90 percent of the population in the country People in the UK did not assisted, or denied, death if they or a family member was seriously ill and suffering.

This has proved to be a contentious issue for doctors. Last month, after a hard vote by its members, the British Medical Association, which represents some 150,000 doctors, changed its stance on assisted dying to neutral, meaning it would neither oppose nor Will support the change in the law.

The Royal College of Physicians also changed its position to neutral in 2019, while the Royal College of GP remains opposed.

Pressure group Care Not Killing argues that the law will change…


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