The Wokingham Paper

EXTRA TIME: Why I believe we should have the choice of an assisted death in the UK

Helen Power
Former Wokingham borough councillor Helen Power Picture: Tony Johnson

In January last year I was the focus of a Wokingham Paper article when I resigned as Wokingham Borough Evendons Ward councillor due to an incurable Cancer diagnosis and this triggered a by-election.

My diagnosis was grim and I was expected to live at most another six months. Well here I am six months beyond that and it’s been quite a year facing such a questionable future.

Despite the obvious lows and health challenges this situation brings, it has also brought an added joy and focus to my life. We’ve added to our family, an Italian Greyhound puppy and never having had a dog before it’s been fun, challenging and very rewarding. A positive step that has brought so much happiness and distraction from cancer to our family.

I treasure all I’ve been able to do in this ‘extra’ time, not dramatic bucket list type things in part due to the constraints of hospital treatment, but all so precious and meaningful. Fortunately most of last year my health was good and as part of phase one clinical trials at the Royal Marsden I have been well looked after. It’s 2020 and a new decade I didn’t expect to be part of and I’m feeling well and happy.

I feel very much part of a wonderfully supportive community in Wokingham and would like to thank everyone, for so many good wishes and kindnesses. We have great friends and as our family live in Ireland, friends and community have played a huge part in the day to day practicalities and emotional support needed dealing with a terminal diagnosis.

At 54, however, I had not expected that I would be planning for my own funeral. Death is not an easy thing to discuss with people and as I society we shy away from facing what is inevitable for us all.

I was very aware of assisted dying and the campaign group Dignity in Dying before my cancer. I had followed the high profile cases of Debbie Purdy and Tony Nicklinson. And Noel Conway’s terminal motor neurone disease case changed me from follower to active supporter.

And then it was my turn. In September 2018 with my dire diagnosis, I looked into and considered using the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland when the pain and torment became too much to bear.

But it’s not just about me, it’s about my family and friends. They would support me, but I cannot do this because of them and because of the uncertainty. Would I be denying myself and them some good times ahead?

It would help me greatly to have some manner of control in this situation and would relieve the fear and uncertainty I face on a daily basis.

To have the choice of an assisted death in my own country, and in my own home is a dream I would love to see come into law. I have worked in politics and with politicians, it is possible to change hearts and minds and the law.

Safeguards and choice for people are possible. As a society we can give me and the many others facing the same inevitable but unwanted death, the opportunity, control and peace to say that’s it and bow out free from pain, misery and despair.

What a wonderful gift that would be. 

More at

Follow me on Twitter @HelenLPower

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