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Healthy Woman Ends Life At Assisted Suicide Facility... To Avoid Getting Old

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 2015-08-04 Ali Venosa

In Switzerland, assisted suicide is an option even for those without a terminal illness. © Shutterstock In Switzerland, assisted suicide is an option even for those without a terminal illness.

A 75-year-old British woman with no serious health issues ended her life on June 21st at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.

Gill Pharaoh was a top palliative care nurse, and had written two books on how to care for the elderly. Pharaoh cited her experience as a nurse, including working in nursing homes, had shown her the true reality of old age, something she described as “awful.”

She told The Sunday Times: “I have looked after people who are old, on and off, all my life. I have always said, ‘I am not getting old. I do not think old age is fun.’ I know that I have gone just over the hill now. It is not going to start getting better. I do not want people to remember me as a sort of old lady hobbling up the road with a trolley.

“I have got so many friends with partners who, plainly, are a liability. I know you shouldn’t say that but I have this mental picture in my head of all you need to do, at my age, is break a hip and you are likely to go very much downhill from that.”

Pharaoh, who was not suffering from any terminal disease, had a life partner and two children.

“It is not his [John’s] choice at all and my kids are backing me, although it is not their choice,” she said before the journey to Switzerland. “My daughter is a nurse and she said, ‘Intellectually, I know where you are coming from but emotionally I am finding it really hard,’ and I know she is.”

Pharaoh is one of a growing number of British citizens who are travelling to Switzerland for assisted death. A study from last year found that one in five of the 611 people that went to Switzerland to end their lives between 2008 and 2012 were from the UK.

Assisted suicide remains controversial, and has gained attention following the high-profile case of Brittany Maynard.

Pharaoh, unlike Maynard, suffered only from intermittent back pain and tinnitus in terms of chronic disease. In Switzerland, assisting suicide is not clearly regulated by law, and has attracted “suicide tourism.” The number of those choosing assisted death without a terminal illness is growing.

Two months before her death, Pharaoh wrote an article in which she explained her decision to end her life.

 “Day by day, I am enjoying my life. I simply do not want to follow this natural deterioration through to the last stage when I may be requiring a lot of help,” she wrote.

Pharaoh explained the difficulties of working in a nursing home and being faced with the helplessness many elderly people suffer from.

“I just felt it was so bleak and so sad. We all did what we could but, for many of those old people, there wasn’t a lot you could do. We do not look at the reality. Generally, it is awful.”

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