A British woman who was not terminally ill but simply felt unable to cope with the automated nature of modern life was approved for and underwent an assisted suicide at a well-known European clinic, Britain’s Sunday Times reported.
The case, which was reported widely over the weekend in the British media, comes as a hotly debated new assisted suicide law is being considered in the country.
The 89-year-old retired art teacher and former electrician with the Royal Navy, identified only as Anne, traveled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland late last month “after becoming disillusioned with the curses of modern life from emails to fast food,” the Sunday Times reported, adding that while the elderly woman had several health problems, she was not considered terminally ill or seriously handicapped.
Before undergoing the assisted suicide, Anne told the paper that she had had enough of “swimming against the current.”
“They say adapt or die. At my age, I feel that I can’t adapt, because the new age is not an age that I grew up to understand. I see everything as cutting corners. All the old-fashioned ways of doing things have gone,” she told the Sunday Times days before she died.
“People are becoming more and more remote,” she said. “We are becoming robots. It is this lack of humanity.”
According to the newspaper’s account, in her application to the assisted suicide facility, she characterized her life as “full, with so many adventures and tremendous independence.” Recently, however, as her health deteriorated with age, she feared spending a long period in a hospital or nursing home.
“Her case will stoke the ongoing debate over balancing a right to die against the dangers that vulnerable people could be exploited,” Britain’s Daily Mail noted.
“Why do so many people spend their lives sitting in front of a computer or television?” she asked, pointing out that she never had a television.
According to the Daily Mail, Anne also said she “worried about the impact of overcrowding and pollution on the planet, adding that the only thing that gave her pleasure was feeding birds in her garden in Sussex.”
Anne never married and never had children. Her niece, who asked to be identified only as Linda, traveled with her to Switzerland. Before going to the clinic where Anne took a lethal dose of barbiturates on March 27, the two spent a few days sightseeing.
“Unless you die in your sleep, beside the person you love, or in their arms, I cannot think of a better death,” she said, according to the Times.
“I don’t want to die whimpering, but go out with a bang,” she said.
Michael Irwin, founder of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide, helped Anne with her application to Dignitas.
“If you are mentally competent you can rationalize whether or not you want to end your life, after you take a look around and decide you don’t like what you see,” he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said at the end of March that he opposed a move to legalize allowing terminally ill adults with less than six months to live to undergo assisted suicide.
People could feel “unfairly pressurized” into cutting short their lives if assisted suicide laws in Britain were relaxed, Cameron warned.
The British Parliament is set to vote on the Assisted Dying Bill. If passed, a terminally ill patient with a prognosis of less than six months to live could receive a prescription from two doctors for a legal dose of medications to end their lives.
The new law would not have applied to Anne’s case, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
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