Gay optometrist, 50, with terminal cancer will have assisted death

Gay optometrist, 50, with terminal brain cancer who married ‘love of his life’ on Valentine’s Day is preparing to take £25,000 private jet to Dignitas in Switzerland rather than face prolonged death at home

  • Alain du Chemin, 50, will take a £25,000 private jet to Switzerland from Jersey
  • He was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma back in September 2019
  • Mr du Chemin will go to Dignitas to end his own life after running out of options

A terminally ill newlywed who tied the knot with his partner on Valentine’s Day will fly to Switzerland to end his life at Dignitas.

Alain du Chemin, 50, will take a £25,000 private jet to Switzerland from where they are staying in Jersey to make sure he does not endure a prolonged death at home.

Optometrist Mr du Chemin was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma in September 2019 and says he has no other options.

He has already had two operations to try and treat the condition as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Mr du Chemin wed his partner of 10 years Paul Gazzard, 48, in Covid-secure ceremony and are enjoying some private time together before the trip to the clinic near Zurich.

He said: ‘I’m not going to be around forever but I really want to leave Paul with some good memories.

Alain du Chemin, 50, who has terminal brain cancer with his newlywed husband Paul Gazzard

‘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.

‘I really don’t want to have to take my own life in an unpleasant way.

Obviously if that happens over here there will be an inquest and whatever comes after that. 

The building of the assisted suicide clinic, Dignitas in Pfaeffikon near Zurich, Switzerland

A waiting room in the clinic Dignitas assisted suicide clinic, Pfaffikon, Zurich, Switzerland

Assisted dying: the law

Under the Suicide Act 1961, anyone helping or encouraging someone to take their own life in England or Wales can be prosecuted and jailed for up to 14 years if found guilty of an offence.

Section two of the act states that a person commits an offence if they carry out an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, and the act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide.

In 2015 MPs including former prime minister David Cameron rejected a Bill to legalise assisted dying.

Opposition to changing the law has come from faith groups, campaigners who say disabled people may feel pressured to end their lives and campaigners who fear assisted dying would become a business.

Earlier this month, terminally ill Noel Conway won the first stage of a court bid to challenge a ruling he says denies him a ‘peaceful and dignified’ death.

The 68-year-old previously said he feels ‘entombed’ by motor neurone disease and wants medics to be able to help him die when he has just six months left to live.

The retired lecturer from Shrewsbury lost a High Court fight in October 2017 to allow him to bring about his death in the way he wishes. 

In December 2018 he said he felt ‘cheated’ and claimed that a ‘medieval mindset’ had stopped him from having control of when he ends his own life.

This came after he was refused permission by the Supreme Court to challenge the law on assisted dying.    

He has been supported by the campaign group Dignity in Dying, and his legal team have spent the past two years challenging the ban on assisted dying.

Their argument is that the Suicide Act, which makes it an offence to help someone to die, contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. 

That legal challenge came to an abrupt end at the end of November, when the Supreme Court refused permission to hear an appeal, after Mr Conway’s case had already been rejected by two lower courts.

‘I don’t want to put other people through this as well.

‘At the moment the only option to me is to fly to another country and go to sleep there,’ he added to the Mirror.

His IT manager husband said they had decided to get married after deciding to avoid waiting until after the pandemic.  

He said: ‘I think we both thought let’s just do this. Let’s just have a special day.’

The couple are making their situation public to highlight issues facing those wanting to have an assisted death under Covid-19 restrictions.

They say that in normal times a terminally ill Brit would travel to the clinic every eight days to end their life.

At the moment UK travellers cannot enter Switzerland under draconian restrictions.

But Mr du Chemin has been able to return to his birthplace Jersey, whose residents are allowed to enter the country albeit by private jet.

The situation means he has to leave earlier to go to Dignitas than he would have liked, because passengers have to be fit to travel.

It will also mean he has to be cremated in Switzerland instead of being buried in Jersey.

But he said: ‘I am not depressed – I have been very lucky in many respects and I have the most lovely boyfriend and family.

‘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 because the one thing I really would like, if I have to pass away is I would like, is for that to be part of a research trial that might help find a cure for somebody else in the future.’

Before he leaves he wants to give evidence to a Citizen’s Jury in Jersey, which is considering relaxing the ban on assisted dying in the Channel Island.

Sarah Wootton, CEO of Dignity in Dying, said the UK should reconsider the law on assisted dying.

She added: ‘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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