Sir Patrick Stewart has admitted being rushed for emergency heart surgery made him consider his own mortality.
The 79-year-old star of Star Trek and X-Men appeared on ITV’s This Morning to discuss his role as a patron of the pro-assisted dying group Dignity in Dying and opened up about his own diagnosis with heart disease.
Sir Patrick said: “I was diagnosed very unexpectedly during my annual physical by my cardiologist, who said ‘What are you doing this afternoon?’ To which I said ‘Well actually, I’m going for lunch.’ And he said, ‘I’d rather you didn’t.’
“And in five minutes I was on a gurney giving details of my next of kin and so it was rather dramatic. And so I didn’t have time to brood on it, but what I did know was that I was in the best possible hands I could’ve been in and I was going to be taken care of whatever the outcome. But yes, it was a wake up call - Patrick, you are not immune.”
The actor also shared the tragic circumstances of the death of a friend as he explained why doctor assisted dying is so important to him.
Sir Patrick revealed: “There should be a path that people can take when they are terminally ill. It would seem to me to be a sensible thing. A friend of mine whose wife had been seriously ill with cancer and was in grave discomfort, one night she took an overdose which wasn’t sufficient. She was taken to hospital and she recovered from it, but there was an indication of how bad she was feeling. Then when she came back home she persuaded her husband to take their dog out for one last walk in the evening time and while he was gone she put a plastic bag over her head and knotted it under her chin.
“A traumatic, painful, miserable way to die and a traumatic way for your husband to discover that is how you have died. So often when I am talking about doctor assisted dying it is the situation concerning loved ones, relatives, children, friends - like my friend telling me this anecdote - where a lot of comfort needs to be given and of course, legal comfort as well, that’s the important thing.”
The award-winning actor believes the UK is close to changing the law surrounding doctor assisted dying, which he described as appropriate for someone who is a “terminally ill, mentally competent adult with 6 months or less to live [who] should be given the opportunity to decide how and when they die.”
Sir Patrick said: “We are indeed much, much closer than when I became patron... If doctors with first hand experience of this are supporting it then I think there is every chance that it will come about. And we know from polls that have been taken, that more than 84 per cent of adults in the United Kingdom support doctor assisted dying.”