UK & World News
Ex-Schools Chief: 'Let Me Die With Dignity'
Former Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Chris Woodhead has entered the right-to-die controversy, saying it is time people were given help to end their lives.
Sir Chris, who has motor neurone disease, told Sky News the possibility he might have to starve himself to end his life did not fill him with a "great deal of enthusiasm".
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have also given their backing to a bill allowing assisted dying, which will be debated in the House of Lords on Friday.
"One of the opponents of the bill has said that there is no need to change the law, because people who have got a terminal illness can not drink, not eat, and through those means, kill themselves," Sir Chris told the Murnaghan programme.
"Well that is a possibility, and it's a possibility I may have to make use of at some point.
"But like anybody else, that prospect, that way of death, doesn't fill me with a great deal of enthusiasm.
"I think it would be far better if I could have my death assisted in a peaceful and dignified way so that my suffering wasn't prolonged, and the suffering of those nearest and dearest to me wasn't prolonged as they had to witness the slowness of my extinction."
In an extraordinary U-turn, Lord Carey said it would not be "anti-Christian" to legalise assisted suicide and that by opposing reform the Church risked "promoting anguish and pain".
Sir Chris conceded that assisted dying is a "difficult and controversial issue" and should only be taken with a family's knowledge and agreement.
But he said Lord Falconer's bill "is about right" given the range of public feeling on the issue.
The legislation would allow terminally ill patients the right to an assisted death if two doctors agreed they had less than six months to live.
Sir Chris said in the past some doctors would help ease a patient's death if they were in a lot of pain.
But he said that changed after the jailing of GP Harold Shipman, who is believed to have murdered more than 200 patients, making him Britain's most prolific serial killer.
"Before the Shipman murders, I think many doctors were more prepared to ease pain than they are now," he said.
"Now there is a perfectly understandable anxiety within the medical profession as to whether or not they will be - in quotation marks - 'found out' if they were to assist somebody's death.
"And indeed I've got mixed feelings about Parliament discussing this issue at all because the more media attention is devoted to the question of assisted death, I think the more anxious some doctors will become particularly of course if Falconer's bill is turned down."