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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 June 2006, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Dad tells of son's assisted death
Paul Bennett
Paul Bennett said he had become 'afraid of living,' his father says
The father of a man who arranged his own assisted death at a Swiss clinic has spoken of his son's last moments.

Paul Bennett, 47, chose to die from lethal injection because he could no longer endure his suffering from motor neurone disease, said his father, Roy.

Mr Bennett, from Swansea, was at his son's bedside when he pressed a button to release the fatal prescription.

He said: "The heroism he showed that day gave us a lot of comfort - it was his decision and his alone."

Paul Bennett's death at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich is being investigated by South Wales Police, as helping someone to commit suicide is a crime under British law.

Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live, Roy Bennett, from Morriston, said all the arrangements for the trip were made by his son, even though he was all but paralysed except for use of his right foot.

The pain disappeared from his face - the fear disappeared from his eyes - he was now at complete rest
Roy Bennett, describing his son's death

He said his son had been an active and talented sportsman, dubbed "Paul the Ball", until his was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 42.

Doctors had given him a life expectancy of five years but he had found the last 18 months of his intolerable, as he was in constant pain and had been terrified of choking to death as he was unable to swallow, said Mr Bennett.

A stem cell treatment in Vancouver, Canada, had failed to provide relief from his symptoms, he said.

"More than a year ago he said to his mother and me, 'I've had enough - I want to close my eyes and not wake up.

Needle
Paul Bennett pressed a button to release a lethal injection

"It was his decision and his alone. We had watched him suffer, and I do mean suffer. He said to me 'Dad, I am not afraid of dying, I am afraid of living'."

Mr Bennett said his son, who leaves a wife and a 10-year-old son, contacted the clinic himself and made the arrangements to fly out, accompanied by his close family in a private jet.

He said a surgeon who examined his son as part of the Dignitas procedure said he would have met Mr Bennett at the taxi if he had known how ill Mr Bennett was, rather than asking him to turn up at the surgery.

Roy Bennett explained how at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich staff rigged up a machine which delivered an injection after his son pressed a button which had been placed on the floor by his right foot.

At every point, he said his son was told he could change his mind at any time and leave.

Palliative care

But, he added: "The pain that he was enduring overpowered any hope of him changing his mind."

After a trial injection with a harmless substance showed that the machine worked, he said his son asked for a final five minutes with loved ones.

He said: "It was the quickest five minutes I have every experienced."

He said his son then pressed the button and then asked to be laid down.

"He went very, very peacefully. No more pain. No more suffering. The pain disappeared from his face. The fear disappeared from his eyes. He was now at complete rest.

"We don't know how he got through it but it was done with such dignity. We would try to comfort him. We would make small talk, what was going through his mind we will never know.

"I'd give anything to have him back with us now, but not in the state he was in. It's a release to him and us that he is no longer in pain and suffering."

Mr Bennett has called for a change in the law to allow people in his son's position to have an assisted death in the UK.

But Dr David Oliver, a consultant in palliative care at a hospice in Kent, told the Five Live programme that the majority of people with motor neurone disease are able to die a peaceful death if they have good palliative care.

He said: "There are many things we can do to help with pain and the problems with saliva and with choking.

"I see many patients with motor neurone disease and we can help those symptoms and help people get on and do the things they want to."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
"They adapted a machine so Paul could take his own life"



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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