Jane: Dad died on 7 Aug. He shouldn’t have suffered.

Jane: Dad died on 7 Aug. He shouldn’t have suffered.

Remembering Simon Sparkes 27/6/52 – 7/8/20


My dad passed away on Friday 7th August after originally being diagnosed with laryngeal cancer less than three years’ ago. He was always a staunch supporter of assisted dying as he believed all human beings should have the right to die with dignity. Watching how he suffered and the effect it also had on my mum, I too believe that we should be allowed to choose how and when we go. 


Dad was told in January that his cancer had metastasised to his lungs and was therefore terminal. He was given 6-9 months to live, although with immunotherapy this could have given him another two years. Unfortunately, immunotherapy didn’t work, and so this was the end. 


Through all this time, dad was so strong and positive. He went through multiple surgeries, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. He was hoping to find a way to keep living. 


He lived life to the fullest for as long as he was able. However, in the last few weeks, he got weaker and weaker. The last two weeks were the worst. 


He was on huge levels of pain medication, and he lost interest in food, he hardly spoke and his dignity was taken from him by this disease. Mum had to call emergency services twice to pick him up off the floor because he was so convinced he could get up, yet his legs couldn’t hold him. Mum did everything she could for him, and the district nurses and Mary Potter hospice staff were supportive of mum and dad. 


By the final week, dad had had enough, he would get upset with mum when she tried to help him, he cried out in pain when she tried to sit him up. She didn’t feel she could sleep because he would try to get up in the night and one night he even pulled his medication lines out so a nurse had to come and fix them. For the final five days he went into a hospice. 


Dad did not want to go like this. He would have gratefully taken the option to choose to go before he lost control of bodily functions, so that we could have good memories of him and he wouldn’t suffer. He didn’t want his grandsons (my boys, 6 and 9 years old) to remember him as broken and weak. Mum now has memories of feeling like she was hurting him and failing him in those last few days, which is so far from the truth – but this is the effect of watching someone you love and have been married to for 42 years go through this. 


I had such a strong feeling of anger at not being able to help dad when he was lying in the hospice bed, struggling to breathe, his strong heart desperately trying to keep him alive when the rest of his body was shutting down. The relief I felt for him watching him take his last breath, knowing he was no longer suffering, was immense. 


Having been through this, I would encourage everyone to think about how you would feel watching a loved one suffer their way to their final breath. How would you feel about seeing all dignity taken from your loved one? Consider instead, the compassionate option: being able to remember your loved one as they were, instead of a shell. Being able to take the time to say farewell, knowing the person you love was able to die a good death, a dignified death. 


This law doesn’t mean everyone who gets sick will have to accept assisted dying at the end. It simply gives people the choice.


For my Dad, and others like him, please vote YES on 17 October in the End of Life Choice referendum.