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Assisted dying plea: ‘I don’t want my daughter to witness what I had to’

Laura Ritchie, pictured with mum Wilma Ritchie.
Laura Ritchie, pictured with mum Wilma Ritchie.

What does it mean to have a ‘good’ death? Should we be allowed to have some control over when, where and how this happens?

These are the emotionally draining questions Laura Ritchie from Aberdeen is grappling with.

She wants to see assisted dying legalised in Scotland after seeing her mum Wilma suffering in death from the same condition she has.

Laura and mum Wilma Ritchie

She chose to speak out as Orkney MSP Liam McArthur MSP continues to steer his Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill proposals through Holyrood.

If agreed, the plans would introduce the right to an assisted death if you are terminally ill but still mentally competent.

‘She was stuck in her own body’

Laura’s mum died from multiple sclerosis (MS) in June 2019 when she was only 62.

Laura has also been diagnosed with MS, and says she doesn’t want to put her own daughter through the same painful experience.

Wilma Ritchie with granddaughter Evie

She said: “I think every single person should get the opportunity to have that choice.

“I know for a fact had mum had the choice she would have taken it.

“Her condition deteriorated really badly and one thing she always said was ‘give me a whole bottle of morphine and I would take it now’.

“But if we did that it would be me getting in trouble with the police for giving her the morphine.

“She couldn’t do that, so she was stuck in her own body.”

‘No one should witness what I did’

Wilma was admitted to hospital two weeks before she died but was deemed fit enough to return to her care home.

The following day she had a suspected stroke and when she was taken back into hospital doctors said there was nothing more they could do for her.

Laura explained: “She was taking seizures – what my family and I witnessed, no one should go through.”

Wilma Ritchie

She continued: “We asked the doctor if he thought she would just die and he said ‘yes’ because of the quantity of morphine she was on.

“My auntie asked if she could have a driver.

A driver is a needle which goes into the chest and pumps morphine to make them peaceful when they are at their last.

“She got that and died on June 8.

“It was not a nice experience.”

Wilma, pictured with Laura’s partner Liam and granddaughter Evie-

Laura now wants to see the law changed in Scotland so that she has the option to have an assisted death if her MS deteriorates.

She said: “I have been diagnosed with MS as well and I know for a fact when my time does come, if I get to that stage, I would want to do something like that.

I know for a fact when my time does come, if I get to that stage, I would want to do something. I don’t want my daughter to witness what I had to witness.”

– Laura Ritchie

“I don’t want my daughter to witness what I had to witness.

“My mum had no quality of life, she couldn’t even pick up a spoon to feed herself, she couldn’t do anything.

“She was totally bedbound.”

Opposition groups are worried

There are groups opposed to a change of the law.

They include faith groups and some medics who worry about how the laws could be a “slippery slope”.

Opponents from Care Not Killing Scotland and Not Dead Yet UK told MSPs in November that they are concerned the eligibility could be expanded too far.

They used international examples from countries where rules have already been relaxed.

However, the discussion has a long way to go in Scotland, despite assurances from pro-change campaigners who insist there will be safeguards.

Members of the public are being asked to have their say on whether or not to legalise assisted dying in Scotland until December 22.


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