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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2008, 18:11 GMT
'Please let me die with dignity'
By Stuart Nicolson
BBC Scotland News website

A terminally ill woman has urged politicians to change the law so she can be assisted to end her own life.

MSP Margo MacDonald, who has Parkinson's disease, is calling for a public debate on the issue after telling parliament that she wanted such a right if her health deteriorated.

Val Mackay [Pic: Chris Watt]
Ms Mackay has not gone outside for more than two years

Val MacKay, 50, was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis just four years ago.

Her condition quickly deteriorated as her body began to numb from the feet up.

Within only four months of being diagnosed, she was forced to give up her job. She split up with her partner because she didn't want him to watch her suffer.

She has been unable to leave her Perth home for the last two-and-a-half years, and spends 22 hours a day in bed, most of it watching television.

Ms Mackay expects to lose her sight and speech soon, with doctors giving her just six months to live - but she insists that is too long to wait for death.

Admitting that she had contemplated suicide in the past but was too afraid to swallow the collection of pills that she built up, she is now so ill that she would be unable to end her own life without help.

Ms Mackay told the BBC Scotland News Website: "I can't do anything. I can't move my right arm or my legs and am in a lot of pain. I have to be hoisted into a wheelchair by my carers and I haven't been outside in the last two-and-a-half years.

I still have my mind - that is the worst thing
Val Mackay

"I still have my mind though - that is the worst thing.

"I have a son, a daughter-in-law and two beautiful grandsons, Matthew, who is seven, and 16-month-old Daniel. It is awful for them to see me like this. I can't even lift Daniel up when he comes to see me.

"I watched my mum die of cancer when I was in my 30s and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

"I don't want my family to go through that with me - I want to be allowed to die with dignity."

Legal consequences

She disclosed that she has discussed her thoughts with her family, and admitted that leaving her two young grandchildren behind would be the hardest part of her decision.

But watching a television documentary about Dr Anne Turner, from Bath, who took her own life at the controversial Dignitas clinic in Switzerland in January 2006 after being diagnosed with incurable supranuclear palsy, left Ms Mackay feeling envious.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, as long as the patient is judged to be mentally competent and is able to lift and swallow a glass of lethal sodium barbital.

Dr Anne Turner
Dr Anne Turner is one of more than 50 Britons to have died at Dignitas

Ms Mackay has contemplated travelling to Dignitas - but is worried about the possible legal consequences in Britain for anyone who helped her.

She said: "I genuinely felt jealous of Anne Turner when I saw that programme. I asked myself if that was a wrong feeling to have, but it is what I felt.

"The problem is trying to find someone who would help me as I couldn't get there myself. I wouldn't ask my family or a friend because they would face the prospect of a jail sentence."

Ms Mackay said she fully backed MSP Margo MacDonald's call at the Scottish Parliament for a public debate on assisted suicide.

Mrs MacDonald, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2002, told Holyrood that she hoped she would have the choice of being allowed to die if her own condition worsened.

Ms Mackay said: "I think it should be any individual's right to end their own life if that is what they want, although obviously there would need to be safeguards to prevent people being taken advantage of.

"If I was a cat or dog I would have been put down a long time ago. I should not have to suffer like this.

"Any change to the legislation will probably be too late for me, but hopefully in the future people will not need to go through what I am going through."

MSP wants right to end own life
26 Mar 08 |  Scotland
Depressed 'could get help to die'
20 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
Euthanasia and the law
21 Feb 07 |  Health
Clinic assists doctor's suicide
24 Jan 06 |  Health

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