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“No dignity” for family of Irish man who died by assisted suicide

The niece of a 59-year-old Irish man who ended his life by assisted suicide in Switzerland has shared the family’s testimony with the Irish parliament’s Joint Committee on Assisted Dying, saying that, when their uncle ended his life, “There was no dignity for our family”.

Emer Maguire spoke as part of the Committee’s discussion on access to palliative care and social supports. Visibly upset, Ms Maguire detailed her family’s sadness on discovering that her uncle, Jay, had travelled to Switzerland to end his life via assisted suicide. The family only learned of his death five days after it occurred. 

59-year-old Jay was met in Switzerland by Sean Davison, director of Exit International UK, a group that provides “practical DIY end of life choices” to people who want to end their lives by euthanasia or assisted suicide. Mr Davison, who has previously been convicted of murder, was present at Jay’s death on 26 September.

Family receives phone call to tell of death five days earlier

Ms Maguire and her family first suspected that something may have happened to her uncle when he failed to meet his sister for a drink and his nephew arrived at his house to discover it empty, in an unusually clean condition. 

Aware that he had been struggling with his mental health, the family contacted the police and filed a missing person’s report. Whilst this was going on, Jay’s nephew, Ms Maguire’s cousin, continued to look for clues to find out what had happened to his uncle. When searching through Jay’s bins, his nephew discovered a torn piece of paper that contained details of a phone number. When he called the number, a man answered and, when asked if he knew Jay, he replied that Jay’s sister would receive a call later that day. 

Ms Maguire recalls “About 30 minutes later, she received a call from Sean Davison to tell her that Jay had died [by assisted suicide] 5 days previously in Switzerland and that he was with him when he died and identified his body after his death”. 

“He had been cremated on the morning of Sunday 1 October and his ashes would be sent to her house during the week”.

Physically healthy man ends life aided by convicted murderer

Whilst Ms Maguire acknowledged that Jay had been seeking mental health support and was taking anti-depressant medication, she reminded the committee that he was not terminally ill or elderly. 

“Without exception, anyone I told about my Uncle’s death by Euthanasia [sic] assumed that he was either terminally ill or very elderly”. Their response tends to be that they can understand how it would be helpful if someone was suffering terribly and was nearing natural death. Jay was neither of these. Jay was in full physical health and 59 years of age. Yes he was suffering mentally but could one say that this was terminal?”, she asked

After the family spoke to Mr Davison, the director of Exit International UK, they discovered that he had been found guilty of premeditated murder in South Africa in 2019 for helping three people to kill themselves. He was also charged with the attempted murder of his mother in 2010. Mr Davison, as part of his work with Exit International, was present at Jay’s death and identified the body.

“No dignity” for family left reeling from the news

Ms Maguire explained the torment that the family have faced in the aftermath of the news. She said “The shock and despair which descended on our family in the aftermath of this phone call can only be likened to living through a horror movie”.

Making reference to the language of pro-euthanasia groups who speak about access to euthanasia increasing dignity, Ms Maguire lamented that “There was no dignity for our family”. When Jay’s family discovered that he had been a member of Exit for 15 years, they thought that he had been “brainwashed” so that he “couldn’t see the world around him in a rational way”.

Lessons from Canada

British MPs and Peers were recently warned about the impact of Canada’s euthanasia law. 

At a parliamentary event in November organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well, Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Canada, told parliamentarians how the Canadian euthanasia law had expanded to include people who were not terminally ill, and how the law in Canada will soon permit euthanasia on the basis of mental illness alone.

Schadenberg told those present that he considers “legalisation of euthanasia a form of abandonment” and, in most cases, euthanasia deaths are “deaths of despair”.

Euthanasia is often based on feeling depressed or hopeless

Contrary to the idea that euthanasia is a rational choice for those suffering and near death, he explained that “most people die by euthanasia because they are going through a difficult health condition, and they are feeling depressed, lonely or experiencing feelings of hopelessness and they believe that their life has no purpose”.

Statistics from Health Canada show that in 2022, 17.1% of people cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason for wanting to die. In 35.3% of cases, patients believed that they were a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.

In addition, he told those present about a number of shocking cases in Canada over the past few years including one in which a veteran had been offered euthanasia rather than a wheelchair lift; another in which a man was accepted onto the euthanasia program even though the reason he wanted to die was fear of homelessness; and a third in which a disabled women applied for euthanasia because it was easier to access than disability support.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “Ms Maguire’s testimony of the death of her uncle Jay is heartbreaking and demonstrates the wide-ranging ramifications of deaths by assisted suicide. We want to live in a society where the vulnerable are protected by the law and can receive the health and social care that they need to live and die well”.

Dear reader,

Thanks to your support, earlier this year the abortion lobby failed to pass two extreme abortion up to birth amendments tabled by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson.

Unfortunately, this is not the end for our opposition. 

In the new Parliament, we will be facing major threats on not just one but three fronts: assisted suicide; experimentation on human embryos; and abortion up to birth:

  1. The first threat is from the assisted suicide lobby. The new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, has not only voted in favour of making assisted suicide legal in the past but also pledged ahead of the election that he would make time for MPs to vote on the introduction of assisted suicide. Now that he has been elected, we will be facing a big battle to stop assisted suicide from being legalised. To attempt to secure this law change, the assisted suicide lobby, led by the multi-million-pound outfit, Dignity in Dying, is expected to significantly ramp up their campaigning to put pressure on MPs to vote in support of introducing assisted suicide.
  2. The second threat is from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and their allies in biotech firms that undertake experimentation on the most vulnerable, precious and unique tiny babies - human embryos. These groups are running a major campaign to remove the 14-day limit from current legislation, so that scientists will be able to experiment on human embryos / unborn babies up to when they are 28 days or four weeks gestation. At around 22 days, the central nervous system begins to form and by 28 days, the heart has begun to beat, the brain has begun to develop and a baby’s eyes, ears and nose have started to emerge.
  3. The third threat is from the abortion lobby. Earlier this year the abortion lobby failed to pass two extreme abortion up to birth amendments that Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson tabled. The abortion lobby, led by BPAS and MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International), has made it clear that they will be working with pro-abortion MPs to try and force through major changes to our abortion laws that would allow abortion up to birth. A law change that allows abortion up to birth was passed in New Zealand in 2020 by the then Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s Government, and that country saw a 43% increase in late-term abortions in the same year. 

If these three major threats from our opposition are successful, thousands of lives will be lost.

This year we successfully ran our biggest campaign in 26 years to fight the abortion lobby’s abortion up to birth amendments. This has used a considerable amount of Right To Life UK's limited resources since our last appeal for donations from supporters last year.

To cover this gap and ensure we effectively defeat these proposals during the coming months, we are aiming to raise at least £100,000 by midnight on Sunday 14 July.

We are, therefore, appealing to you to please give as generously as you can. Every single donation, no matter how small, will go towards saving the lives of the unborn and many others.

By stopping these threats, YOU can save lives over this coming period.

Will you make a donation now to help protect vulnerable lives from these threats?