13/03/12 Taro Naw


13/03/12

Profiad dyn a helpodd ei gymar i deithio i glinig yn y Swistir lle cafodd gymorth i farw. The experience of a man who helped his wife travel to an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.


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This man went abroad with his seriously ill wife...

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..so that she could end her life.

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He then had to wait before hearing whether he would face jail.

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I helped someone to die.

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That's against the law.

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People should be entitled to do it in their own homes...

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..with their own families...

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..instead of having to travel to Switzerland or somewhere else.

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Tonight he talks about his experiences with his life partner...

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..and shares his feelings on this controversial subject.

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The purpose of the legislation is to protect the vulnerable.

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I think it would put huge pressure on older people...

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..who feel they're a burden on their families...

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..and that they want to die.

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The slopes of Kilimanjaro...

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..where Aled and Janet Owen are on an adventure.

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This is Camp Two, and we're in the most amazing place.

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We're looking at the peak from here and it's absolutely beautiful.

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Nine months after reaching the peak of Africa's highest mountain...

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..Janet Owen was facing a greater challenge...

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..which would lead her to ask her husband of 30 years...

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..to help her to kill herself.

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She was seemingly healthy, but things weren't right.

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We were walking in the mountains and she'd fall over.

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She was running strangely in the gym.

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She worked for Rape Crisis...

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..and she started to take down telephone messages incorrectly.

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She got the numbers in the wrong order, and things like that.

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She went to the doctor and luckily...

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..this doctor had worked with an MS specialist...

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..and said she should go to the hospital to be tested.

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The news was not good.

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A week before the couple were filmed visiting their daughter in Japan...

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..Janet was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, MS.

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They were determined not to let it interfere with their lives...

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..as many people live with the condition for many years...

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..without experiencing many symptoms.

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But that's not how it worked out.

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She tried chemotherapy, she tried steroids...

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..she tried other drugs, but nothing helped.

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Nothing at all.

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She was deteriorating faster than majority of sufferers we now know.

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In three years, she went from someone who could climb mountains...

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..and reach the peak of Kilimanjaro...

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..to somebody who used a wheelchair.

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In her cottage in Penmachno, Conwy...

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..Janet Owen found it difficult to accept her rapid deterioration.

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She had been an energetic person, with many interests to fill her time.

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She was multi-talented. She sang and drew.

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Here's her painting of Capel Garmon.

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And here's another one of just below Moel Siabod.

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She painted many pictures.

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I've got pictures of us on the computer.

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Here we are under the Matterhorn.

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She's singing here and here she is...

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..playing the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe...

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..at Rhos-on-Sea Savoyards, about 10 years ago.

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As she was so fit, it must've been extremely frustrating...

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..when she was unable to do things.

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That was the biggest thing.

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Had she been prepared to sit in front of the television...

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..every day, I'm sure she'd be here now.

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But this is what she did.

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She walked, cycled, painted, sang, performed. That was her life.

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Janet Owen, who once worked with people with Alzheimer's...

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..had said she wanted to end her life in Switzerland's Dignitas clinic...

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..if she ever suffered from a similar condition.

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Despite the MS, they travelled the world on a tandem...

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..and they went travelling with Janet in a wheelchair.

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We went to Istanbul, Helsinki, Holland, Belgium and France.

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We were trying to do things that were different...

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..even though she was in a wheelchair.

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To be honest, she said the final five years of her life...

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..were the best five years.

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But after returning home from a difficult trip to Yorkshire...

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..Janet realised she wouldn't be able to travel again...

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..and she would soon be housebound.

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That was the end of our travelling.

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We stopped going out to the opera.

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About a week after that she said, "I'm going to Dignitas."

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When you heard those words, so final, how did you feel?

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That was a shock.

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I remember crying... but it was impossible to do anything about it.

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She wanted to go, so I wanted to help her.

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We contacted the children, Richard and Sian.

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I'm not sure how Richard took it.

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I think it's difficult for men to take in such emotions.

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But Janet was speaking to Sian almost every day on Skype.

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Sian understood what was going on.

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Did they try and persuade you not to go...

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..or ask you to stop Janet?

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No, they knew their mother.

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If Janet wanted to do something, she was determined.

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There was no way you'd change her mind.

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As I said, Sian understood how Janet felt...

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..but I don't know about Richard. He found it very hard.

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He found it very hard.

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It is illegal in Britain...

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..for a chronically or terminally ill person...

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..to receive support to end their lives.

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It is legal in some countries...

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..like Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

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Some say Britain should not emulate these countries...

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..as it goes against the basic principle of life...

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..that to kill is to kill.

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Life is God's gift and I don't think anyone has the right...

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..to assist someone's suicide.

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There are other ways of helping people who are in severe pain.

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There is also a moral issue - for whose benefit is this suicide?

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I can imagine the elderly believing they're a burden on their families..

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..and deciding, "I want help to kill myself...

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"..because I think I'm a burden on my family."

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I can see some families, of course, putting pressure on the elderly...

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..to do that.

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There are also concerns beyond the religious.

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Some physicians say it would change the relationship...

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..between doctor and patient.

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According to one palliative care expert...

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..it's the doctor's duty to save lives and treat pain...

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..not to end a life.

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It's very difficult to predict how long a patient has to live.

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Even when we think a patient has only days left to live...

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..3% of the time, we're wrong.

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The changes that have been suggested expect us to predict...

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..when someone has six or 12 months to live.

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Another concern is that in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal...

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..there's evidence to suggest that one in six patients...

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..who have taken drugs to end their lives...

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..were suffering from depression which was undiagnosed.

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At the moment, doctors can only help ease a patients' pain.

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As medical science develops to prolong life...

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..and treat a variety of conditions, things aren't always black and white.

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We do discuss with the patient and the family what's appropriate.

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The truth is that sometimes, unintentionally...

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..you can do wrong by trying to do good.

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I don't think any doctor dealing with such patients...

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..can swear that they haven't ever prolonged a patient's life...

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..whether that's by seconds or minutes...

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..by administering drugs to ease another symptom, for instance.

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It's inevitable that we sometimes prolong life.

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Out intentions are good.

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Those in favour of changing the law argue...

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..that what some doctors cite isn't so different...

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..from the terminally ill patient's viewpoint...

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..when the individual wants assurances they won't suffer.

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Having this right in Britain would ease fears...

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..and could be beneficial, according to Janet Owen's husband.

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I know she always said she wouldn't use a walking frame...

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..but she did.

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She wasn't going to use a wheelchair, but she did.

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She was never going to use a catheter, but she did.

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I think sometimes the fear of what was going to happen...

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..was worse than the thing itself.

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It's quite possible if she could have taken her life here...

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..she would have decided to live longer...

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..and possibly she wouldn't have taken her life at all.

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At 54-years-old, Janet Owen made the decision in April 2009.

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She planned to go to Switzerland the following November...

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..before she was too weak, but she needed her husband's help to travel.

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It was such an emotionally difficult situation...

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..she didn't tell many of her intentions...

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..and didn't say her goodbyes to some.

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Janet was about to leave her life and community...

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..knowing she'd never see them again.

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I took Janet to the hairdressers every Friday.

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We went to see him and changed the date to the Tuesday morning.

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We said we were going to Switzerland.

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He asked, "Are you coming back on the Friday?"

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"I'm not coming back."

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That was terrible for him. He was the only one who knew.

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We didn't see the children at all...

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..between making the decision and flying out in November.

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Switzerland is the only country which allows foreigners...

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..with terminal illnesses to go there for help to die.

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The controversial and non-profit making body, Dignitas...

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..organizes everything.

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Since 1998, at least 117 Britons have ended their lives here...

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..at a cost of £7,000 each.

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Janet Owen came to this unit on an industrial estate.

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After arriving, doctors make sure the patient is secure of mind...

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..and understands the implications of drinking the medicine.

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Janet was determined.

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We didn't talk or say goodbye.

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We just got on with what was happening.

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There was no point dragging it out. It was going to happen.

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We got there at around ten o'clock...

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..and she took the...

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..the thing, the stuff at around eleven, I think.

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She died around one o'clock.

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This stuff is quite bitter.

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You have chocolate...

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..and there were two things she said.

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She was just going to sleep and they used a tissue...

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..to stop the chocolate coming out of her mouth.

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She said, "Nobody's going to have my chocolate."

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And then she said, "Give my love to the kids."

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Those were her last words.

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The following day, Aled Owen traveledhome to Penmachno...

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..on his own, leaving his wife's body to be cremated...

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..in Switzerland.

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Hardly anyone knew what had happened.

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It was terrible. I was lucky that I wasn't sharing a seat with anyone.

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That was terrible.

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I was crying and...

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..well, it felt...

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..odd, to come home on my own.

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It didn't hit my until I got home.

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I came into the house and there was no-one there...

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..and I had a community meeting on the night I came home.

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I remember phoning someone on the committee and I couldn't speak.

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I couldn't speak at all.

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They came in and I was crying. It was terrible.

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But some say there is a better way of dealing with the end of a life...

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..which shows respect to everyone, no matter what their disability.

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There's no need to change the law, just improve our services.

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At St David's Hospice in Llandudno, patients can come on a day visit...

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..or they can stay during their last days or weeks.

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There is support available.

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I understand when people are afraid.

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We are all afraid of facing our last days.

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But I think a lot of patients are afraid of dying in pain.

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There are ways to help that these days.

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Things have changed, there is better medical care these days...

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..and not just physical pain either...

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..but spiritual and emotional.

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There are therapists to help with that.

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When someone receives bad news, they feel very low...

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..and everything seems bleak, but when they meet people...

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..and see there is support available...

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..people can get through that.

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They should have said from the beginning...

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..that there was nothing they could do...

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..apart from ease the symptoms a little.

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While Ifan Pritchard was suffering from cancer and Parkinson's...

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..his wife looked after him at their home in Nefyn.

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But as his condition deteriorated...

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..they had a place at St David's Hospice.

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From the very first minute we were there...

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..there was some hope.

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Not a hope of recovery...

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..but there was hope there.

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There was a peace I can't explain.

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It was a feeling of love. You were aware of the care they provided.

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He stayed at the hospice on three occasions...

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..including the last seven weeks of his life.

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His wife was allowed to stay until the end.

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I felt there had been a change...

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..and the sister from the ward was there with me.

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Both of us were in tears when he left us.

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I could stay with him for as long as I wanted afterwards.

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He went very quietly in the end.

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After the care her husband received...

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..Katie Pritchard is not in favour of changing the law.

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Ifan was given support until the end...

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..at the hospice.

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But he was also given support to live those last few days...

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..and weeks, and I lived them with him.

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We spent some very valuable time together...

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..and some very happy time.

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That support was provided when he died...

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..and that's what I think assisted death should be.

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By assisting them to live.

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But not everyone wants the same thing.

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As people live longer and medical practice prolongs life...

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..some argue that the individual should have the right decide.

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Your body belongs to you.

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You should decide how you want to end it.

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Liz Beynon worked as a nursing assistant for 20 years.

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Hello, Mam. It's me.

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Come in.

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Are you alright?

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Do you want anything now?

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No, thanks.

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She now looks after her mother...

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..who still lives at home in Pencader, Carmarthenshire.

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She's seen many suffering from terminal illnesses...

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..with no quality of life.

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Is there any point being alive and have someone feed you...

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..while not being able to talk to anyone?

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Someone having to wash you and dress you...

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..and you don't even know what day or time it is?

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People shouldn't live like that.

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I wouldn't want to live like that.

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If she suffers from a terminal illness in the future...

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..she wants the right to an assisted death.

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If the law isn't changed, she'll do it herself.

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If the treatment doesn't work...

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..I wouldn't want to go on.

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It's up to them. I don't know what's going to happen.

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I know what I would do, but I'm not going to tell you that.

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But the law has got to protect the most vulnerable in society.

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One expert says that would be difficult if the law changed.

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It wouldn't protect those who are vulnerable or disabled.

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In a way, I don't think it's possible...

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..to be certain...

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..that everyone is protected.

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What the English call a 'slippery slope'.

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If you allow one thing, you can start to slip down the slope...

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..and allow things you hadn't originally planned to.

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One or two will slip through the net...

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..and mistakes are inevitable, aren't they?

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Possibly.

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On the other hand, hundreds of people live...

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..with a terrible quality of life.

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Some of them want to end their lives.

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By helping his wife, Aled broke the law.

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He voluntarily told the police everything.

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I was open with them.

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Two or three months later...

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..I had to give a statement to the police under caution.

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But they didn't arrest me.

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Following the ruling of the Law Lords in 2009...

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..the Director of Public Prosecutions...

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..announced what circumstances could lead to the prosecution...

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..of a person who has helped a patient die.

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Aled Owen will not be prosecuted.

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You must have the checks and balances.

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The CPS has around 20 guidelines to check...

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..to make sure you're not taking advantage of anyone.

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It's still against the law to do it...

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..but it's not in the public interest to take it forward.

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I think that's right.

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Janet was cremated in Zurich and there's no grave here.

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There's nothing here.

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I built a memorial at the top...

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..where I can go to remember her...

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..and to bury her ashes.

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I'm sure she left us too early...

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..when she was fit.

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If you could do it here...

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..I'm sure she would have waited.

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That's all I'd like to see happen.

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You should have the right to do it in your own home...

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..with your family, instead of travelling to Switzerland...

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..or somewhere else.

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If you want more information or details on tonight's subject...

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..call our helpline on 0800 83 44 44.

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The calls are free from BT landlines...

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..and the lines will be open for a week.

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And there's more information at www.S4C.co.uk/help

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Profiad dyn a helpodd ei gymar i deithio i glinig yn y Swistir lle cafodd gymorth i farw. Mae Aled Owen yn galw am newid yn y gyfraith i wneud pethau'n haws i bobl mewn sefyllfa debyg. The experience of a man who helped his wife travel to an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland. Aled Owen calls for a change in the law to make it easier for others in a similar situation.


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