A gay couple in London have tied the knot in a ceremony on Valentine’s Day, just days before one of the grooms will fly to Switzerland, to an undertake an assisted death at the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic at Pfaffikon in Zurich.

Alain du Chemin, is a 50-year-old optometrist who has been diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma – a cancer which attacks the brain and spinal cord. Originally from Jersey he moved to London around 10 years ago to be with his partner Paul Gazzard. Chemin, said that he had already had two operations to try and treat the condition as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and had been part of a research trial into this form of cancer, but that was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chemin, in an interview with the Mirror said “I’m not going to be around forever, but I really want to leave Paul with some good memories.”

Knowing what little time, they had left together, the couple had decided to no longer wait until after the pandemic was over. Speaking about their their Valentine’s Day ceremony, which was attended by 10 of their closest friends and family, with many other watching via Zoom, Chemin said that he was wanting to give his partner memories of some ‘good times’ prior to taking his own life.

“And I won’t go into details about what the symptoms are as this tumour gets late – but they are not pleasant. And they are quite undignified to be honest. And that word – dignity – and losing all your dignity is not something I want to go through.”

 The couple have gone public in their plight, to highlight issues faced by those wanting to have an assisted death under COVID-19 restrictions. According to the couple there would normally be one terminally ill British citizen flying to the clinic every eight days to end their life, yet due to travel restrictions this is simply not possible.

As it stands, in Britain, assisted suicide is still illegal and any doctors found to be assisting a suicide can be jailed for up to 14 years, under the Suicide Act 1961.

The couple, determined for Chemin to die with dignity, have been forced to pay £25,000 (around $44,000 AUD) to charter a private plane from Jersey to Switzerland to ensure he does not have to endure a painful and prolonged death at home. Yet this also means, Chemin must leave earlier than intended as passengers must be fit to travel, so to, his body must be cremated in Switzerland.

“I am not depressed – I have been very lucky in many respects and I have the most lovely boyfriend and family,” Chemin said. “I just simply don’t want to go through potentially really unpleasant side effects and my husband and my family having to watch that.

“I have had all the treatment. I have been trying to get on a research trial. The one thing I really would like, if I have to pass away, is to be part of a research trial that might help find a cure for somebody else in the future.’

 Stories like this highlight the many ways that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to tear apart the lives of so many people across the world. It also highlights the necessity of reform and laws which fully support a person’s right to end their life when faced with terminal illness or a reduction in their quality of life.

Here in Australia, the state of Victoria took the lead when on June 19, 2019 the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 came into effect. Western Australia then passed similar legislation which will enable voluntary assisted dying to become a choice to people from mid-2021.

Discussing the plight of Chemin and his partner, CEO of Dignity In Dying UK Sarah Wootton said, “Alain simply wants to avoid a painful, protracted death from brain cancer. His only option to guarantee a peaceful end is to travel to a foreign country and die earlier than he would want.

The UK must review our outdated legislation as a matter of urgency and hold an inquiry into the options for a new British law on assisted dying.

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