A severely disabled man has spoken out against changing the law on assisted suicide, following the acquittal of Maeve Ecclestone , charged with murdering her 80 year old husband who had advanced bowel cancer. Mrs Ecclestone gave her husband of 60 years a fatal dose of medicine. Now the family is calling for a change in the law on assisted dying.
But Mark Blackwell, a former psychiatrist, says he does not want a change in the law. He says that he is happy to be alive and that a change in the law to allow assisted suicide would make him feel that his life was a waste of time and he would lose respect for himself. He feels he is lucky because he has his wife and family to protect him, but he worries about other people.
Dr Blackwell was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011. In 2016 he underwent Deep Brain Stimulation surgery to help with the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Immediately after the operation he had a severe stroke leaving the left side of his body paralysed and his speech impaired. He says that at one time he did want to die, but then realised that the really important thing, in his life, love, had not changed.
Dr Blackwell’s wife, Eppie, makes it clear that she wants her husband to live. Mrs Blackwell says: ‘My heart goes out to the suffering of Mr and Mrs Ecclestone, but I want people to know that life with a severe disability is not all misery. Of course our life has changed since Mark became ill. But Mark and I enjoy our life really very much as it is now. Our children and our friends would really miss the love and presence of Mark if he ended his life.’
Antonia Tully of the campaign group ‘Lives Worth Living’ says: ‘A change in the law would put people like Mark at risk. Instead of protecting vulnerable people, death would be offered as a solution for illness or disability. People like Mark would soon feel that they are a burden to their families and that they ought to choose death. Their carers would feel the pressure and under scrutiny for keeping somebody alive who could choose death.’
‘Assisted suicide is not a matter of choice. Once the law is changed, safeguards could quickly be eroded and there would be an expectation that sick, disabled and elderly people should choose assisted suicide. The acceptable ‘choice’ to make would be death. The law must not be changed.’