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Last Updated: Friday, 2 June 2006, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Family's plea on assisted death
Paul Bennett
A bill on assisted dying was rejected by peers last month
The family of Swansea man suffering from motor neurone disease who had an assisted death at a Swiss clinic have called for a change in British law.

The death of Paul Bennett, 47, is being investigated by South Wales Police.

A family member said Mr Bennett would have had extra time with his family, in particular his wife and son, had he not been forced to travel abroad to die.

In Switzerland assisted suicide is a crime only if those helping can be shown to have acted in self-interest.

The family member said that it had been a grim time and there had been considerable expense.

He said it was clear as there were also other people suffering and in extreme pain in Britain, there was a need for families to be able to get assistance in their home country.

It is not known who travelled with Paul Bennett to Switzerland but a number of people connected with the incident have been interviewed by detectives.

Det Peter Azopardi, of South Wales Police, said Swansea CID were investigating.

"A number of persons connected with the incident have been interviewed at Swansea police station, where they attended voluntarily with their legal advisor," he said.

"The inquiries are still ongoing and will result in a file being compiled for consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service."

Mr Bennett, who leaves a wife and 10-year-old son, had worked for a local factory and previously for DVLA and BP Chemicals in Llandarcy.

He had also played for local sports clubs but had suffered from the disease since 2002.

Delay to bill

Last month, Lord Joffe's bill on legalised assisted dying was blocked by the House of Lords.

The bill would give doctors the right to prescribe drugs that a terminally-ill patient in severe pain could use to end their own life.

But it faced strong opposition from the medical profession and church leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Peers backed an amendment to delay the bill by six months by 48 votes.

Lord Joffe has said he will reintroduce his bill at a later date.

A spokeswoman for UK-based campaigning organisation Dignity in Dying said it was a shame people were being forced to go overseas to have a dignified death.

"It would be far more compassionate to have an assisted dying law passed in this country," she said.

"Our campaign, for patient choice to be at the heart of all end of life decision-making, will continue."

WHAT THE TERMS MEAN
Assisted dying - a physician prescribes medication which a patient can take to end their own life
Voluntary euthanasia - the physician would actually help the patient die

More than 40 people from the UK have travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich for an assisted death, the spokeswoman said.

It is the only clinic of three offering assisted deaths that deals with people from outside Switzerland.

Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black, who is also a Swansea councillor, said he did not support euthanasia.

"I'm not surprised somebody has taken this route because it is available for people who have enough money," he said.

Speaking to the Swansea Evening Post, a spokesman for the British Medical Association (BMA), which was once opposed to assisted dying, said it now took a neutral stance after a narrow majority vote at its annual representative meeting.

He said the BMA would continue to press for robust safeguards for patients and doctors who rejected involvement in assisted death procedures.

"We must strongly emphasise that this does not mean that the BMA supports legal change," he said.

"The narrowness of the vote indicates, however, that a wide spectrum of medical opinion still persists within the BMA."


SEE ALSO:
Lords block assisted dying bill
12 May 06 |  Health
'We were there as she died'
12 May 06 |  Health


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