A former Irish nurse in the latter stages of MS has spoken movingly of her wish to die when her suffering becomes too great.
In the compelling RTÉ Documentary On One, Do No Harm, 51-year-old Kate Tobin tells of her fear that a relative would be jailed if they helped her to travel to Switzerland for assisted suicide.
The former palliative care nurse, who was also a nun in the past, says she knows all too well about the end stages of her disease.
“I knew what my disease entails. As it slowly started to deteriorate I thought I can’t live like this. I thought at that stage when my illness gets too bad I want to call a halt. I want to die,” she said.
In the advanced stages of MS, she manages living alone with her dog, Bruno, with just 12 hours care a week.
“I’m in pain. A lot of it is the loss of my independence. My carers have to help me brush my teeth, even to write an email takes me three or four hours.
“I’m not afraid of dying and when I’m having bad pain I would often say ‘God how much more of this have I got to take?’ I’ll sit here and cry and say ‘I can’t take anymore. I want to die please let me die’.”
The documentary is presented by Dublin GP Luke Dillon, who decided to explore euthanasia after losing his own father to cancer nine years ago along with going on an eye-opening visit to the Netherlands in 2015 to learn about end-of-life care.
Kate reveals in the documentary that she has considered all options including travelling to Dignitas, the Swiss assisted-suicide clinic.
“If a relative came back without me they could be charged for assisted murder. I don’t want any of my family to suffer that.”
Since Dignitas began 19 years ago, the documentary revealed eight Irish people have died there through physician-supported suicide but to assist someone to travel there could result in a 14-year jail term.
Moments of light relief in her week include sitting with her carers in her adapted home in Wexford watching the bizarre carry-on on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
The former nun would like to avail of palliative care but she says she doesn’t qualify.
“Because I don’t have a specific lifespan, I’m not entitled to go into a hospice and give me a better quality of life.”
Kate, who was once a member of a religious order, has reconciled her faith with the idea of assisted suicide.
“I believe I’m doing my purgatory on earth so when I get to heaven St Peter will say ‘welcome my child, you have suffered enough on earth, go sleep in the arms of Jesus.”
Palliative Care Consultant, Dr Stephen Higgins, at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross, worries that euthanasia will be introduced to Ireland in the future. He said: “If you look at the direction of change across the world, it is towards euthanasia. I suspect it will be legalised in Ireland at some point and I would be nervous about that.
“I think there is no doubt that many people would feel that euthanasia is the thing they can do for their family or perhaps for society, that their contribution would be to go out quickly.”
He says his Irish patients rarely make a request to end their own life.
“I see about 700 new patients a year. I doubt I would have two or three patients a year who would seriously wish for euthanasia.”
Documentary On One: Do No Harm will air on RTÉ Radio 1 today at 2pm.
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