WHEN Rachel Earley sat with her dying father as he took his last, painful breaths, she wished she could do something – anything – to relieve his suffering.
At just 58, Barry Bodell was in the final stages of oesophageal cancer. He was in agony, and his life had become a shadow of what it once was.
“He was really rasping for breath. It was a really horrible noise, and it will stick with me forever. There was nothing I could do, and I just felt like I wanted to stick a pillow over his head. I didn’t want him to suffer; I didn’t want to prolong his suffering. You wouldn’t let an animal suffer,” Mrs Earley, of Newhall, told the Mail.
It was this experience, 12 years ago, which has left her fully in support of the idea of assisted suicide – an issue which has been thrust into the national spotlight by a recent soap storyline.
Campaigners on both sides of the divide have spoken out over the Coronation Street plot, in which Hayley Cropper has planned to take her own life in the last days of her battle with terminal cancer.
On Monday, the character will take a cocktail of drugs, before fading away in the arms of her husband, Roy, sparking a national debate about the morals associated with assisted suicide.
“I think it’s great it’s bringing it into the public eye,” said Mrs Earley, 48. “It’s something that has got to be discussed and it’s got to be sorted. I don’t think it’s immoral if the person has a terminal illness and their mind is working. I feel it should be down to them to decide what is right or wrong.”
Her views were shared by Burton-based humanist and celebrant Chris Goodwin, who told the Mail she thought assisted suicide was ‘the elephant in the room’.
She said: “There are so many people out there who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness who have not got many choices. I’m an animal lover, and I draw the parallel that you don’t want to see animals suffering. It must be awful to see friends and family suffering. I am all in support of this.
“It’s about control. If you are terminally ill, and you have procedures in place where life becomes unbearable, you should be able to make the decision.”
In 2012, locked-in syndrome-sufferer Tony Nicklinson was denied the right to die in a landmark high court battle. He passed away just a week later after refusing treatment for pneumonia.
His wife, Jane, has continued to campaign for people to be allowed to die with the help of a doctor, saying it is ‘uncivilised’ that people like her late husband should have to suffer.
But Father Stephen Wright, parish priest at St Mary and Modwen said euthanasia ‘was not the dignified answer to a very difficult situation’.
“It is the direct killing of another person. As such, in my view, it is always an immoral act. Whatever the motives behind the act, even if the act is requested by the victim, killing sick people is contrary to the dignity of the human person.
“True love and compassion for a very sick person recognises and upholds their dignity and seeks to share in and alleviate their suffering as much as is possible. It may be moral for a very sick person or their care givers to refuse or stop extra-ordinary medical procedures and allow nature to take its course in a process that upholds the dignity of that person.
“True love and compassion may well allow a person to die. That is very different to intentionally killing a person, which, in my view, is always morally wrong.”
Mail readers commenting on Facebook have been widely supportive of assisted suicide, with many speaking from personal experience about the desire to avoid prolonging suffering for loved ones.
Rebecca Dunn said: “If you’re terminally ill and you’re in serious pain every day, with every breath you take, then yes. I watched my father slowly die of cancer. In the end, he had to put liquids through a tube in his stomach, and could hardly talk. They put animals down for less so they do not suffer.”
Yvonne Hallam-Seal added: “With the correct regulations and safeguards, assisted suicide should be made legal. My dad and my brother and sisters watched our mum suffering in agony, with no quality of life as she was dying of cancer at the age of only 50. We even pleaded with the hospital to help to bring her life to an end but, obviously, they couldn’t.
“That was 23 years ago and we can remember it like it was yesterday. People should be allowed to make the choice to end their lives and not be forced to suffer. If we forced animals to suffer in the same way, we would be in court facing cruelty charges. Anyone against assisted suicide has obviously never had to watch someone forced to die in agony.”