Author and Alzheimer’s sufferer Terry Pratchett has disclosed that he has taken the first tentative steps in arranging his own death.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s BBC2 documentary Choosing to Die, Pratchett revealed for the first time that he had requested, and received, consent forms from the Dignitas euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.
“I decided to do it after visiting the clinic,” he told the audience during a question and answer session at the Sheffield documentary festival. He hadn’t yet completed them, he said, because he had been busy finishing another book and with work on the film.
But other answers – faultlessly delivered during the hour-long session – suggested that his mind isn’t made up. “It [requesting the consent forms] is a certain gesture of solidarity because I believe that assisted dying should be available to those who need it and if good reason to need it exists. But the majority of people that contact them (Dignitas) don’t follow it through. Knowing that you can do something doesn’t mean you will. It is possibly a comfort.”
Asked whether making the film had helped him reach a decision, he replied: “Given that my own mind was changing about once every two minutes and it continues to do so, I think the answer is no. But I was pleased that I had seen Dignitas at work.”
Pratchett, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s more than three years ago, briefly broke down in tears when speaking about his mother and his own view of religion – “I call myself a humanist; you do your best for your fellow man.”
Asked whether he believed in an afterlife he joked: “We would have liked more budget and more time to explore that.”
But he repeated his belief that assisted dying should be legal and available in the UK. “I would like to see a way forward,” he told the audience. “It shames us and embarrasses the Swiss that it happens like this. For heaven’s sake. there are three states in the US that practise this in some form or another, plus Holland, Belgium and Switzerland.
“There are enough templates. It is not as if this is some new thing.” He said he understood the concerns that, if legalised, euthansia might be taken up by those who, in his words, were “fed up and had had enough”.
He believed that it should only be available in the most serious cases with, perhaps, a tribunal helping to decide. “What I am fighting for is for us to find something that suits us in the UK.”