Posted on 12th February 2016

Why Simon's Choice Could Help us Make Our Own

Whether you accept his decision or not, Simon Binner has achieved more than secure his personal right to die.

He has done a great deal to help all of us to talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to encourage us to consider as the norm making plans for the end of our life, rather than burying our heads in the sand about the inevitable.

More than a million people watched the heartbreaking documentary How to Die: Simons Choice, which aired on BBC Two. It followed his journey from his diagnosis with an aggressive form of motor neurone disease early last year to his death just a few months later.

Cameras followed him as he said farewell to his friends and family before taking his own life at a clinic in Switzerland. While Simons mind was made up from the point of diagnosis, for his wife Debbie, it was much more complex. She said while she didnt want Simon to suffer, she didnt want him to die.

Debbie has since described the documentary as "beautiful, saying she hoped it sparked a grown-up debate.

And that is exactly what it has achieved. There can be few other times when so many of us have commented on and thought about what it means to reach the end of life and what choices are available to us.

The airing of the documentary came just a few days after community nurse Max Neill, from Preston, who suffers from incurable bowel cancer, revealed he was working with an NHS Trust in Lancashire and a hospice to encourage terminally-ill patients to write their own end-of-life plan in much the same way as a pregnant woman would write a birth plan.

His document gives prompts for patients to detail their personal wishes, with sections to include what will be important to me, how to support me and those I love, what must happen, and what must not happen.

Debbie, along with organisations like Dying Matters, will be hoping this is all part of a move towards greater openness and awareness. A lack of openness can affect the way we are supported at the end of our life because our loved ones may not be aware of our wishes and we may come to the point where we can no longer express them. Failure to talk about dying as part of everybodys life cycle can also mean loved ones suffer from guilt as to whether they have made the right choices about care. It can also lead to financial problems for those left behind.

The team at Latimer Hinks, myself included, consider it a privilege to work on behalf of families facing some of the toughest times in life.

While were here to provide legal advice, that can often cross over into care choices and who we want to make decisions on our behalf when we no longer can. Unfailingly those we meet who are facing a terminal illness worry not just about themselves, but about the loved ones they are leaving behind. They display bravery and forward thinking to try to ensure not just that their end-of-life care is as they wish, but that their family is taken care of in the years following their death.

Its vital we open the conversation and it is time that death and dying stopped being a taboo subject.

Talking and securing appropriate advice can help provide long term peace of mind for all concerned, not only for the person reaching the end of their life, but also for their family.