Widower of Britain’s Got Talent star backs assisted dying law
The widower of a Britain’s Got Talent finalist has spoken out in favour of legislation allowing assisted dying.
Tina Humphrey, who made it to the finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2010, took her own life while in the final stages of metastatic melanoma, an aggressive cancer in 2017.
Her widow, Steve Jetley, who lives in Powys, said that he backed a change in the law after it was raised in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons last week.
Tina, 45, and her dog Chandi reached the final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2010 after wowing viewers with their dance routines. She died age 45 in May 2017 after taking her own life.
Currently, under the 1961 Suicide Act, anyone in England and Wales who helps another person die could face a maximum jail term of 14 years.
Opponents of assisted dying fear it would place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden upon others.
But Steve Jetley said that Tina Humphrey’s last days involved “excruciating pain” and that if assisted dying had been legal her death would have been a more comfortable one.
After attempting to take her own life Tina “had expected she would fall asleep and die soon after,” Steve Jetley but because she was “unable to ask for assistance from someone medically qualified” that did not happen.
“Instead she slipped in and out of consciousness while she struggled to breath. She didn’t die for another 15 hours.”
Campaign groups such as Care Not Killing argue that persistent requests for euthanasia are extremely rare if people are properly cared for and so the priority must be to ensure that good care addressing people’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs is accessible to all.
They also point to the fact that despite being legal in other countries, the number of British people travelling abroad for the purposes of euthanasia is very small compared to numbers in countries that have legalised assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Steve Jetley however said that when his wife decided to choose the time and manner of her death herself, he knew she wasn’t going to change her mind, and that dying on her own terms was so important to her.
“She desperately wanted to live but that choice had been taken away by the cancer and so I supported her choice to shorten her suffering,” he said.
“I feel guilty, terribly guilty that she didn’t have the peaceful death she so wanted. I have nightmares about it all the time. I also feel terribly angry about the cruelty of the current law. That’s why it must change, so people can have the choice to die peacefully, which Tina and so many others have been denied.
“I don’t understand the opposition to changes in the law. These people aren’t taking their own life – that’s already been taken away. They are shortening their death.”
Steve, who attended Dignity in Dying’s demonstration outside the House of Lords during the Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill in October, has contributed to a new report from the campaign group.
Entitled Last Resort: The hidden truth about how dying people take their own lives in the UK, it estimates that under the ban on assisted dying up to 650 dying citizens take their own lives every year, with up to 6500 attempting to do so.
This is in addition to 50 Brits a year who travel to Switzerland for an assisted death and 17 a day who suffer in pain as they die despite palliative care.
Polling released as part of the report suggests that seven in 10 Brits believe there is a distinction between assisted dying and suicide, and seven in 10 feel suicide prevention measures should not stop terminally ill people seeking assisted death.
Last week, the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of life, spoke in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons calling for a clear process of reform of assisted dying laws in England and Wales.
In October an Assisted Dying Bill brought by Dignity in Dying’s chair, crossbench peer Baroness Meacher, passed its Second Reading unopposed in the House of Lords.
The Bill proposes that terminally ill, mentally competent adults who have been given six months or less to live should have the choice of a safe, legal assisted death, subject to strict safeguards.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said that the Bill “represents a safer, fairer, more compassionate response to the desire of many terminally ill citizens for greater choice at the end of their lives”.
“We need a clear process in Westminster reforming the outdated status quo, with proper time set aside for this crucial debate,” he said.