A Preston man has launched a new city campaign to legalise assisted dying – and is urging the people to join the conversation.
Chris Ramsey formed the new group in the heart of Lancashire after noticing a lack of available discussion on the controversial subject.
Chris, 45, said: “It perplexes me that assisted dying is still not a legal option for terminally ill people.
Most people I speak to agree that it should be, especially those who have personally experienced a loved one dying.
“Imagine yourself with a terminal condition in which the end will not be pleasant.
What options would you like to have? Having assisted dying as a choice would give a lot of people comfort and allow them to go peacefully and respectfully, at the time and place of their choice.”
The group met on Tuesday evening for the first time at Baffito’s Bar in Ashton, Preston, with personnel from the national Dignity in Dying campaign.
Chris, who spent his childhood in Africa until the age of 14, said: “There was four of us but it’s stepping stones. Tuesday was about getting together and speaking about it.”
The group has risen to national attention for its support for Noel Conway, a retired lecturer from Blackburn who lives with motor neurone disease and wants the right to an assisted death.
In June he was denied this request.
Noel, who has lost his ability to breathe independently and only has movement in his right hand, head and neck because of the illness, said: “I will keep fighting for myself and all terminally ill people who want the right to die peacefully, with dignity and on our own terms.”
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, said the Court of Appeal’s decision was “sensible” and “recognises that the safest law is the one we already have - a complete ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia”.
He said that “our laws deter the exploitation, abuse and coercion of vulnerable people”.
For Chris, he understands the emotional aspect of the issue and why it isn’t discussed as much as some, like himself, would like.
“It’s an awkward conversation,” the Birmingham native explained.
“It’s not something that naturally does well so we have to keep at it.
“There’s nothing in this area and something I have felt quite strongly about from a logical point of view.
“If you are dying I think ‘it’s my life it should be for me to decide and have the right to say how I should live my life’.”
He said that his “gut feeling” is that a lot of people in Lancashire are feeling the same way as him but have nowhere to mobilise and discuss the issue.
He also thinks morality issues surrounding religion have clouded the debate.
“I had a religious upbringing but lost my faith and I wanted answers,” Chris continued.
“I think religion has a lot to do with it.
“But we are becoming more secular in this country so [support for assisted dying] is becoming more and more welcome.”
The organisation No To Assisted Suicide campaigned against assisted dying in 2015 when the Assisted Dying Bill was put before Parliament. It was defeated by 330 votes to 118.
They said: “The term “assisted dying” dishonestly removes the moral implications of suicide by pretending it is simply a medical choice.
“No To Assisted Suicide calls for honesty in this discussion.”
The group said that if the law was passed “wrongful deaths will occur” and that “it’s hard to assess who has the mental capacity to end their own life”.
Francesca Hall, Campaigns and Outreach Officer for the Dignity for Dying campaign, said: “We’re grateful to all of those who turned out to support the new group in Preston.
“We know that the vast majority of people throughout the country – including 82 per cent of people in the North West – want to see a change in the law on assisted dying.
“Sadly Parliament has failed to listen to the British public on this issue.
“It’s incredibly important that MPs know the strength of feeling amongst their constituents and this group will help to make that clear to MPs in Lancashire.”