Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

Terminally ill actor Brian Rix calls for assisted dying law change

Terminally ill actor and disability campaigner Brian Rix, 92, has said the law on assisted dying needs changing.

Mencap president Lord Rix urged the speaker of the House of Lords to push through legislation allowing those in his situation to be assisted to die. He had previously opposed an assisted dying law, but said his illness has left him “like a beached whale” and in constant discomfort. “My position has changed,” he wrote to Baroness D’Souza.

Stage and TV actor Lord Rix, who specialised in post-war “Whitehall farce” comedies, is receiving 24-hour care in a retirement home.

Extract from Lord Rix’s letter

“My position has changed. As a dying man, who has been dying now for several weeks, I am only too conscious that the laws of this country make it impossible for people like me to be helped on their way, even though the family is supportive of this position and everything that needs to be done has been dealt with.

“Unhappily, my body seems to be constructed in such a way that it keeps me alive in great discomfort when all I want is to be allowed to slip into a sleep, peacefully, legally and without any threat to the medical or nursing profession.

“I am sure there are many others like me who having finished with life wish their life to finish.

“Only with a legal euthanasia Bill on the statute books will the many people who find themselves in the same situation as me be able to slip away peacefully in their sleep instead of dreading the night.”

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Lord Rix opposed the Assisted Dying Bill in 2006

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MPs vote no on assisted dying – So what are the arguments for and against? Two experts in medical ethics sum up some of the arguments

After a heartfelt and passionate debate in the House of Commons, MPs have voted 330 to 118 to reject the Assisted Dying Bill. As many as 85 MPs spoke, sharing personal stories and compelling arguments both for and against the bill, which proposed that a terminally ill person should be able to request assistance to end their own life.

The bill specified that for a person’s request to be granted, they must be terminally ill and “reasonably expected” to die within six months. Their decision would have had to be “voluntary, clear, settled and informed”, put forward in a written declaration signed by two doctors, and approved by a High Court judge. Only after a cooling off period of 14 days would a lethal drug have been prescribed.

Here, two experts in medical ethics sum up some of the arguments for and against the bill.

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Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London as MPs debate and vote on the Assisted Dying Bill.

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London as MPs debate and vote on the Assisted Dying Bill.

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Patient’s shocking death alone in a public toilet made me question end-of-life care – by Andrew Buckley – A doctor working in a NHS hospital

“Cardiac arrest, public toilets” proclaimed the tinny speaker in the intensive care pager. Clutching the grab bag and defibrillator I headed toward the scene, considering what we were likely to find. There’s an unwritten rule of cardiac arrest: if it’s in a public place, it’s always a syncopal episode, a faint.

A number of responders had arrived before me at the cramped and panicked toilet area and started the well-trodden resuscitation path, delivering CPR to an elderly man we’ll call John. John had not fainted. Evidence of rigor mortis, the stiffening that sets in when the muscles stop receiving oxygen, was already manifest, and his face showed the calm, waxen permanence of death we hospital doctors become so familiar with.

The defibrillator, a machine that allows for rapid assessment of the heart, confirmed the complete absence of electrical activity. A search through his personal effects while chest compressions were ongoing revealed an elegantly handwritten note, written without fear or prejudice, with admirable perspicacity and with a strong undertone of defiance.

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The letter we found in his pocket while trying to save his life began: “Dear the doctors and nurses of [our hospital]” and went on to neatly summarise a predicament affecting so many in society. Photograph: Alamy

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Assisted dying will be made legal in UK ‘within two years’

A change in the law that will allow terminally ill people to be helped to end their lives is inevitable and will happen within as little as a couple of years, according to the deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA). Speaking in a personal capacity, Dr Kailash Chand has thrown his weight behind Lord Falconer’s private members bill, which would offer assisted dying to terminally ill patients who are deemed mentally capable and are likely to have less than six months to live. On Friday, the House of Lords voted unanimously to accept an amendment to the assisted dying bill, tabled by Lord Pannick and supported by Falconer,  that would see all applications for assisted death subject to judicial oversight. The move was welcomed by campaigners as a major step in changing the law. Chand said it was clear that momentum was now swinging behind those pushing for reform.

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Lord Falconer reveals diet

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