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."
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.”
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.
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.”
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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