Letters, calls and emails: The media promotes myths about MND

Dear Editor

Good palliative care helps MND patients be dignified and comfortable
Good palliative care helps MND patients be dignified and comfortable

This week’s assisted-dying storyline in Holby City is to be condemned. 

Having been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), ‘Gina’ committed physician-assisted suicide in Switzerland. Her words, before swallowing her lethal cocktail, were: ‘I want to be allowed to die with dignity’. 

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society has hijacked the word ‘dignity’ by changing its name to Dignity in Dying. The lay public (and many GPs) are being led to believe that MND causes an undignified, grim death from choking. Yet the evidence says otherwise: at St Christopher’s Hospice, where modern palliative care began, 94 per cent of over 200 MND patients had a peaceful death and none choked. Even Diane Pretty, having failed at the European Court of Human Rights to be granted an assisted death, had a ‘perfectly normal, natural and peaceful’ death, according to the Luton hospice that cared for her. 

My own experience as a GP and hospice doctor bears this out. I have never seen an MND patient choke to death. Aided by good palliative care, their deaths have been comfortable, peaceful and, above all, dignified.

We need to challenge those elements of the media that promote Dignity in Dying’s agenda.

Let’s set the record straight about the nature of dying of MND. Let’s join the campaign to end the palliative care funding postcode lottery. And let’s continue to back the BMA and RCGP in their opposition to legalising assisted dying.

Dr Rachel Pickering

London

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