A former trade union activist with Alzheimer's disease has decided to go to Switzerland for assisted suicide .
Alex Pandolfo has lived with dementia for four years and, though the symptoms aren't yet severe, he says it has affected his quality of life.
The 64-year-old, who lives in Lancaster, struggles to read and write coherently, to keep track of time and conversations.
He told Manchester Evening News he "loves life" but "doesn't value how it will end".
And now Alex, who is unmarried and childless, has signed up for an 'assisted voluntary death' (AVD) in Switzerland.
Under Swiss law, patients with dementia are permitted to take their own lives as long as they can prove 'capacity' to make the decision.
But assisted suicide remains a criminal offence in the UK, carrying a maximum jail sentence of 14 years.
In 2015, the House of Commons rejected a bill to allow terminally ill people to request assistance with ending their life if they had less than six months to live.
Alex's partner Poppy and cousin Maria have supported his decision and are likely to come with him to Basel.
But they will play no part in Alex' preparations or they could leave themselves open to prosecution.
"Most people aren't afraid of dying – it's the way of dying.
"I've always been quite pragmatic," Alex, who grew up in Miles Platting, Manchester, said.
The big Manchester City fan cared for his father Vincent Pandolfo for five years as the kind, gentle man he knew was destroyed by vascular dementia.
Alex knows he too may have difficulty eating and swallowing, suffer the indignity of incontinence and gradual loss of speech as the dementia worsens.
His brain will have shrunk dramatically by the final stages.
Alex, who won a scholarship to Oxford and worked for decades fighting for the working man, has completed most of the preparation for the trip to Lifecircle, a centre set up by former Dignitas employee Dr Erika Preisig.
The centre has given Alex clear instructions on the process in a detailed letter.
Alex continued: "I thought the end of 2018 or the start of 2019 would be about right.
"But I've ended up putting it back twelve months, which I didn't expect.
"There has been some deterioration [in his Alzheimer's symptoms], but I've been working on coping strategies.
"If I'm the same as I am now [at the end of this year], I will put it back again.
"I'm in no rush to go, I'm not suicidal.
"Suicide, in general, tends to be an act of desperation.
"My dying process has started a lot earlier than I would have liked.
"All I want is a certain degree of assistance with that death so I don't have to suffer."
Alex, who was born into a working class Irish-Italian family in 1954, moved from Manchester to Lancaster in 1992 for a university teaching job.
Recalling his father's fight with dementia, which he says became worse in around 2000, he said: "My dad had always been gentle and kind.
"Don't get me wrong, he was a physically hard man, he was an amateur boxer. He would never start anything but he would certainly finish it!
"But he wouldn't swear and he wasn't lewd.
"Once dementia set in he became violent, abusive and extremely lewd.
"My dad said 'you should have more respect for women, I've only ever slept with one woman, that's his mother' [and pointed at me].
"To go from that… to making comments and even moving his hips at women when we were out… it wasn't him, it was another person.
"It was a nightmare – it was awful what happened to him."
"On a couple of occasions he forgot who I was in the house and thought I was a burglar.
"My dad died in pain, when you watch somebody close to you suffer it gets you thinking, it's not just him suffering like this. He didn't want to be alive.
"I looked into it and assisted dying is actually available to people in this country. The very rich have always been able to source drugs.
"And anybody who can muster together around £10,000 can go to Switzerland and the government turns a blind eye."
Research published by Zurich University in 2014 suggests one person a fortnight travels from the UK to Switzerland to take their own life.
Assisted dying remains one of the most emotive and controversial topics in society.
The debate was reignited this week when the Royal College of Physicians ended its 13-year opposition to the idea of helping terminally ill patients die and adopted a neutral position.
As it stands in the UK, we are still governed by the Suicide Act 1961.
Top news stories from Mirror Online
Source: Read Full Article