GOODBYE; Two Months Ago, Terminally Ill Phil Such Went on Hunger Strike to Try to Change the Euthanasia Laws. Here, He Tells Movingly How Diane Pretty's Court Defeat Will Condemn Him to a Cruel Death

By Such, Phil | Daily Mail (London), April 30, 2002 | Go to article overview

GOODBYE; Two Months Ago, Terminally Ill Phil Such Went on Hunger Strike to Try to Change the Euthanasia Laws. Here, He Tells Movingly How Diane Pretty's Court Defeat Will Condemn Him to a Cruel Death


Such, Phil, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: PHIL SUCH

SEVEN European judges yesterday condemned a mother-of-two to a lingering and uncertain death. It would have been kinder to hang, draw and quarter Diane Pretty.

How can perfectly healthy judges understand the suffering of a 43-year- old who, in the space of just two years, has lost all mobility, power of speech and any real control over her bodily functions?

Mrs Pretty can now enjoy a momentary escape from 24-hour discomfort only through the use of heavy sedation. So, cruelly, she will remain mentally alert until her last dying breath.

How do I know? Because I also have Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and have watched my mother die horribly after a 14-month battle with this ruthless killer.

During the final harrowing weeks of her life, my mother was unable to talk or clear her throat. No judge sitting comfortably in Strasbourg is going to convince me that it is right for a human being to endure such torture.

Mrs Pretty had gone to court because she wanted to be allowed assistance to end her life, to whisper an emotional goodbye to her family and then die with a little dignity and peace after one lethal injection.

In February, I announced in this paper that I was going on a hunger strike, surviving only on fruit juices, in support of the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia.

Yesterday's ruling has left me tired, bewildered and angry. But I remain defiant - indeed, belligerent enough, now I know that there is no hope for me either, to stop eating and drinking all together.

But it is time to describe the past two months of my life and thank some amazing people for making a difficult time bearable.

When the Mail published my article I had no idea what a hullabaloo it would create.

While some people have unwittingly portrayed me as a deadly serious campaigner for the introduction of legal euthanasia - almost the West Country's answer to the Grim Reaper - in real life, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, I do believe that terminally ill people should have the right to die before their suffering becomes too great, but that does not stop me still having my same old warped sense of humour with barely a trace of political correctness.

Believe me, laughter is the only thing that maintains sanity when you are coping with the later stages of MND.

Fun is hardly a word that one would associate with a hunger strike, but thanks to some amazing people I have had a few chuckles.

The first week without food was hideous because my stomach growled like a bear's after winter hibernation.

A visiting film crew hardly helped when they tucked into fish and chips, but all the pangs vanished when I made my television debut on the BBC News. I was so shocked by my physical appearance on TV that I broke down and cried.

There is no cure in sight for MND, and there are more than 4,000 sufferers in this country.

When I was originally diagnosed in October 2000, I already knew what the neurodegenerative disease could do to a human being. But when you actually witness your own decline on television, it sends shivers down your spine.

Without my normally broad shoulders, my head looked like a football-while my face was utterly devoid of animation. It has never been a pretty sight, but now it looks more like a gargoyle. …

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