By Toby Porter
A retired university lecturer is pleading for support for assisted dying after her dad took his own life following a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Barbara Wall, 63, from Bromley South, hopes a Government bill can become law – five years after the death of her father, Charles Kentish.
He was found hanged at his home in Norfolk by his neighbour after Barbara became concerned that he wasn’t answering her phone calls.
She said Charles was denied the right to die a dignified and peaceful death after he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.
Determined to end his life on his own terms, Charles, who lost his wife to dementia in 2010, refused treatment that would have prolonged his life only for a few months – but would have left him with a worse quality of life.
He had loved food and all sport on TV – but could no longer keep any food down. He eventually had to stop watching football because there were so many food adverts.
In the end, he meticulously planned his death, which he was forced to keep secret from his daughter to protect her.
Before his death he cleaned the house and did the washing up.
He was found dead in his garage after taking his own life on November 13, 2016 – around a year after his diagnosis.
He had left a note on his front door saying “Please call the police”.
But the first responder who attended was a volunteer teacher who is still traumatised.
Now, daughter Barbara is backing the Assisted Dying Bill, which would give people suffering from terminal illnesses the right to an assisted death.
Barbara, who asked the neighbour to check on him when he did not answer two of her daily calls, said: “He was adamant he did not want to live but no one had any idea what he was going to do.
“It was a horrible experience for everyone. What a terrible way to go. Yet it could have been so much better and more peaceful. He was not in pain – but for some people palliative care and pain relief just do not work.
“I like to think of him as he was. This is about a limited sort of people of utterly sound mind who know their life is limited and find it intolerable.
“It was such a huge shock when it happened. I had no idea that he was thinking about taking his own life.
“He might have been 94 but he was an incredibly social guy. He loved cycling and he loved going to the pub on Sundays to see his friends, or invite them round to his for coffee. That all stopped when he got ill.
“I’m very lucky that I have good friends and neighbours that were near me and supported me after it happened. It was heart-breaking.”
Charles’ ashes were sprinkled on his beloved Snetterton motor racing track in Norfolk.
Charles had not told his daughter or friends about when he was planning to die – under the 1961 Suicide Act, anyone in England and Wales who assists another person take their own life could be prosecuted and face a maximum jail term of 14 years.
Barbara, 63, has now backed the Assisted Dying Bill, which was debated in the House of Lords on October 22.
The Bill would legalise assisted dying in England and Wales as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults with six months or less to live, alongside existing end-of-life care options, enabling them to die in a manner and at a time of their choosing.
Barbara, a retired university lecturer, said: “Dad was absolutely determined that he did not want to carry on. He said: ‘Everybody wants to help me, but there’s nothing anyone can do.’
“It is heartbreaking how he had to go through that alone to spare his loved ones. If the law had changed in time for my dad, he wouldn’t have been alone. Other families should be spared this pain.”
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