A man who made the heart-wrenching decision to end his own life has called for a change in the law after his wife was questioned by police in his final weeks.
Geoff Whaley, 80, of Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire, arranged to end his life today at a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to avoid a protracted death from motor neurone disease, which he was diagnosed with two years ago.
His wife Ann, 76, had supported his decision, but found herself being interviewed under caution by Thames Valley Police after someone tipped them off.
Helping someone commit suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Mrs Whaley booked the flights to Switzerland and a hotel because her husband can no longer use his hands.
In an interview with the Times, Mr Whaley said: ‘I really wanted a quiet few weeks to reflect on what is happening and that’s when the bomb dropped.’
He said the added stress of police involvement had ‘destroyed everything we had done to prepare ourselves’.
In a letter to MPs, he added: ‘The blanket ban on assisted dying has not only forced me to spend thousands of pounds and endure months of logistical hurdles in order to secure a peaceful and dignified death overseas, but it has meant that my final weeks of life have been blighted by visits from social services and police.’
Mrs Whaley said: ‘In 52 years of married life, Geoff has never cried, but that day, he put his head down and sobbed. That made me very angry.
‘I wasn’t frightened because I didn’t feel like I’d done anything wrong. I wasn’t ashamed. I was cross.
‘My whole attitude throughout Geoffrey’s illness is that I’m here to protect him from all the slings and arrows from the outside world so that he can enjoy the time he’s here.
‘It was so ridiculous to put us through this when he is in the final few days of life.’
Police have since dropped the case, but the couple – who have two adopted children and four grandchildren – want to see the law changed to allow assisted dying in some circumstances.
They believe the law can be written to ensure vulnerable people are still protected from abuse.
At least three Britons have faced a police investigation after returning from a loved one’s assisted death at a Dignitas clinic, the Times reported, although no-one has been prosecuted.
When asked if he is concerned about the consequences his wife could face, Mr Whaley replied: ‘Ann can handle anything.
‘The one thing that has worried me all along is leaving Ann because I’ve spent all my life protecting her. Now she’ll be without me, but I know she’ll get through it.’
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of campaign group Dignity in Dying, said Geoff and Ann’s story was a ‘heart-breaking reminder of the cruelty that the current law inflicts on dying people and their families’.
She added: ‘In upholding the status quo, our elected representatives are turning a blind eye to the suffering of terminally ill people and the overwhelming public support for a change in the law.
‘It high time they grasped the nettle and did the right thing in giving dying people a real say over their end.’
For confidential emotional support, contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.