My funeral took place in an open field. And that was normal


At Marie Curie’s Terminal Patients House in New Addington, south London, a 65-year-old man with chest problems, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes sits in his room, suffering from pneumonia. A stopwatch hangs on a fridge next to a fridge of fizzy drinks. The man recently moved here from Portugal, where he lost his home because he used a wheelchair and a wheelchair-friendly wheelchair was impossible to find. The man hopes that when he goes to his local hospital next week, his symptoms will ease. Every ambulance run is a continuous target, a chance to convince them that I’ve had enough and I want to die But, while waiting for a Blue Cross-supported nurse, we talk about a war. The first time he came to this hospice, he thought he wouldn’t be here tomorrow. Someone had promised him a war zone if he agreed to stay. He would die soon, he thought. “It was terrifying, it was a sea of people and the fact that there was some sort of demon lurking in the darkness,” he says. His life was like a TV drama – he was kidnapped, tortured, taken to his death, “they decapitated my cat for the cameras” and the fact that this was happening in a country where there was no systematic end-of-life care meant it felt real. People wanted to try and stop me, to get me to fight, but I realised that they weren’t in the right

Terminal Patients’s House owner Don Worcester It is later, in the nursing room, that we are comforted that it is just a film. Someone in the UK constantly fights back against the death lobby. The following morning he wakes up, and has a breakdown. “I am not in a war. If I feel like being in a war I am already disabled. If I feel like something needs me to kill somebody I am not a good person.” His life in the UK has changed – he now wants to fight. Two days ago, two people, one a local councillor, another a retired civil servant, told him they would murder him if he did not have the right to be selfish. Then they helped him decide when to die. Don Worcester, the hospice’s owner, says they began receiving calls from Britons who had taken these messages. The message to Don has been ‘please don’t come here, you don’t want to stay’ Don says one man asked if he would have to get up and be attacked by armed men just to buy a taxi. Another man had a similar conversation, followed by a handgun being put against his head. Still, it’s not quite like Afghanistan, or Iraq – but he wonders whether it might not have been worse if the attempts to keep him alive had been far less covert. It has been a distressing experience for the man, whose wife is trying to decide whether to fly out to Portugal for their wedding anniversary. “We got stuck in a major civil rights group like the Fawcett Society,” he says. “They want to try and stop me, to get me to fight, but I realised that they weren’t in the right.” “The final message was ‘please don’t come here, you don’t want to stay’. I found that quite traumatising.” Within 24 hours he was signed off work, and can no longer get access to the morphine he was taking to ease his pain. Back to Guardian The next time the man’s wife calls Don to ask for advice, she says she won’t talk to him. “I’m fed up of him being scared, he is tired of this.” Don Worcester, the hospice’s owner, is not concerned about the war, and doesn’t want anyone else to feel how his client feels, but neither does he want to be the martyr. He knows he may have to be, if those staff sent messages were able to reveal the home’s policy of not aiding those with terminal illness to end their own lives. Don Worcester knows that a few misjudgements would be costly for those patients whose support may be needed in the event that he is prepared to help them to take their own lives. But the experience of one man, left broken for a time, shows that it is worth fighting against such fears and lies. “For Terminal Patients,” BBC Two’s new medical drama is backed by Marie Curie Cancer Care. A message sent to Don Worcester stating that he was “running the military campaign” The writer of the show, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, says he is glad the drama will put terminally ill people, whom he knows will choose to end their own lives, in the centre of the screen

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