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Jerseyman with place at Dignitas hopes island will allow assisted dying

Jerseyman with place at Dignitas hopes island will allow assisted dying

Thursday 18 February 2021

Jerseyman with place at Dignitas hopes island will allow assisted dying


A Jerseyman, who has booked a place with Dignitas in Switzerland to end his life, hopes that the island will see the value of allowing assisted dying.

Alain Du Chemin (50) was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive brain tumour with no known cure, in September 2019.

He has since had two operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to extend his life but the cancer has returned each time.

However, Mr Du Chemin is clear that travelling to Dignitas is ‘Plan B’. He wants to explore every medical avenue first and there is potentially one last lifesaving journey to take: being selected for a research trial that could finally prove a match for his most pervasive and pernicious tumour.

“Knowing that an option is there should the trial not happen or fail is comforting because it allows me to focus on Plan A without worrying about what Plan B might be,” he told Express. "Even if the research trial doesn't work for me, I hope it will contribute to the science to help others."

Alain Du Chemin marriage.jpeg

Pictured: Alain Du Chemin married his partner, Paul Gazzard, on Sunday.

But Mr Du Chemin, who went to De La Salle and Victoria College before qualifying as an optometrist, is fully prepared to end his life on his terms and has paid Dignitas its £10,000 fee to be on standby.

“I don't need to go into the details of what the symptoms are in the late stages of this tumour - but they are not pleasant and can be quite undignified," he explained.

“I don’t want others to witness that; I want my husband and family to have positive memories of me. It is all about dignity, and losing my dignity is not something I want to go through.”

Mr Du Chemin has only been able to say ‘husband’ since Sunday, when he and his partner of 10 years, Paul, married in Jersey on St. Valentine’s Day. The ceremony included a private jet flight around the island organised by friends.

But, despite Mr Du Chemin finding comfort in having control of his life, and death, the terms of his potential end are not ideal.

“I don’t want to travel to Switzerland nor do I want to be cremated, which is the only option at Dignitas,” he said. “Also, I don’t want to go earlier than I have to, but I have to be in a good condition in order to travel. 

“I would much prefer to die in Jersey, but I have to go away. I am fortunate to have that option, but there is both a physical and financial cost to that, especially at the moment with all the travel bans, so the process is inequitable. Some people can afford to it and some people cannot - and, to me, that seems unfair.”

plane flight travel tourism tourist holiday

Pictured: “I would much prefer to die in Jersey, but I have to go away."

Mr Du Chemin commends the island for establishing a Citizens’ Jury on assisted dying and he hopes that his story will inform the debate.

“I strongly believe that it should be an individual’s choice, obviously supported by strong checks and safeguards,” he said.

“It was a difficult decision to speak publicly about it but I want to do something to help by sharing my story. Above all, I find it very difficult to understand why anyone should be forced to endure months of indignity and unpleasantness.

“If, at the end of the day, there is nothing that anyone can do, it is very difficult to comprehend why a law should force me to go through that, and force other people to look after me. 

“I can understand that people will have different opinions and beliefs, but I think it is wrong for the law to take away my choice."

Mr Du Chemin is clear that he doesn’t want to preempt the jury’s decision - he merely wants to have his voice heard, in case he goes to Switzerland before it has time to hear evidence. With this in mind, he has filmed a submission which can be presented if and when the panel wants to hear his views. 

He says he is very lucky to be surrounded by so many loving and supportive friends and family, with a small number taking part in the wedding celebrations on Sunday, both in person and online.

States_Assembly_states_chamber_debate_members.jpg

Pictured: A Citizens' Jury is due to consider the question of assisted dying and will present its findings to the States Assembly.

“Of course, ending my life is not what I want and I have my fingers crossed for the research trial, but I have been exploring the options for quite a while,” he said. “When the tumour came back for a second time, about eight months ago, it became clear that I was not going to be one of the lucky ones who fight it off. 

“I truly believe that people should be able to make their own decision, although I understand that others will think differently. It is about choice and it is about dignity.”

Although its formation has been delayed by the pandemic, invitations have now been sent out asking Islanders to join the Citizens’ Jury.

The Jury will take place via online sessions this spring and will make recommendations for consideration by the States Assembly before the end of the year.

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Comments

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Posted by John Smith on
What a very sad story and how brave he is to speak out about it so openly.
Posted by Gary Hudson on
Alain, l feel for you with this disease, from a personal view, as l have the same diagnosis

They couldn't operate on my tumours due location in the brain, but l did have 7 week radiotherapy treatment in London last summer, and currently having chemotherapy locally in Jersey

I've always supported assisted dying, before diagnosed with this illness, so anything l can do to move this on, l'm open to help

Gary
Posted by sarastarkey57 on
What is it with the British system……. We can go to Switzerland to have a civilised death but not in our own country.


My husband Andrew, because he was sussed enough and 'well' enough - and we were able to afford it - we could go to Switzerland for him to have a civilised death and not linger for perhaps years in terrific pain and misery.

Others, who are either too ill, can't afford it, or frankly don't have the where with all to sort all the legal documents and medical papers are stymied.

OR, which is a terrifying thing to do, commit suicide – which can go horrible wrong. Most of us have no idea how to acquire the right medication (unlike pharmacists, Drs and Vets) or how to use them.

Then there are those who do not have the physical ability to do so even if they so wished to end it all.

In other words most of us are completely buggered by the system that is imposed upon us.
Posted by Private Individual on
Well done for speaking out about this taboo subject.

I fully support what you are doing, it is obscene in this day and age that you are being forced to access end-of-life care in another country. How can any modern society condone sending someone overseas to end their life when it should be available here in Jersey.

As with everything in life, and in this case death, it is not your choice in how you end it but the out-of-touch government.
Posted by Sheila Young on
It is tragic that people in this sort of situation are placed under the additional stress of having to find the money and also ensure they have the ability to travel as they near the end of their life. Once all the necessary evidence and background checks are in place they should be able to die in their own home surrounded by loved ones if they so wish. We put our animals out of their suffering, yet we allow our human counterparts to suffer more even though many are able to voice their misery, fear and pain. It is time something was done to change this.
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