Healthy woman chooses death in a Swiss clinic to avoid becoming a ‘burden’


The late Terry Pratchett must be spinning in his grave. This is not what he intended with his campaign for dignity in death. reports the following:

A healthy former nurse has killed herself at a Swiss euthanasia clinic because she feared developing a terminal illness and being unable to take her own life.

Gill Pharaoh, 75, who did not want to become a “hobbling old lady,” was not suffering from any serious illnesses before she died on July 12 at an assisted dying clinic called Lifecircle in Basel.

The former nurse said she didn’t want to become a burden to her children or “block beds” in hospitals and cost the NHS a “fortune.”

There was nothing wrong with Mrs Pharoah at the time of her death. Her reason for choosing to be euthanized is extremely hard to stomach, considering that it falls perfectly in line with the Conservative Government’s policy of condemning anybody with an illness as a burden on state benefits.

There was no medical reason for the procedure at all.

Meanwhile, genuinely-ill benefit claimants are being demonised by the Conservative Government and the media, and deprived of the benefits they need to survive. They are being told that their desire to carry on, managing their conditions as they go, is a selfish attempt to defraud the taxpayer.

Without wishing to be disrespectful of Mrs Pharoah or her family, it seems that, by her death, she has done a huge disservice to those who are trying to live.

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  1. Maggie Wallace August 4, 2015 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Thank you! I saw this woman’s partner on BBC Breakfast this morning, and was horrified. I’m 66 now, but became ill when aged 44, and have become more and more disabled since then. I don’t get out much, I don’t get to do much, but the things that I *do* manage to do (eg visited the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool) feed my soul and give me good things to contemplate when I can’t get out or am confined to house or bed. To be honest I think this woman was a coward and makes life even harder for those of us who are disabled that a lot of folks think should just be disposed of. My life isn’t what I might dream of, and certainly not what I wanted, but it is still precious to me, and despite my difficulties I derive immense pleasure from it. Bird song in the morning, seeing the river from my bed, the distant hills. These are probably small pleasures to many people, but to me they are priceless.

    • hugosmum70 August 5, 2015 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      couldn’t agree more. i too am in my 70s with over 30 medical conditions some working against others or the meds are. but i value my life. last Monday i reached my 73rd birthday. what did we do to celebrate it? we went to a local park. had a picnic at the picnic tables watching people play tennis.after that i pushed my wheelchair the few yards to the duck pond,. fed the ducks and geese (one disappointment. no swans for some reason), then pushed it further to the rose gardens, taking photos all the way. around the gardens. (not big ones) then back the same way, after resting. my granddaughter on hand in case i had had enough. i did not give in even though my feet were painful. (had bruised the bones of the instep of one 2 weeks before by standing on something in my stockinged feet. ouch).i watched squirrels being hand fed. . then over the road for a celebratory drink,. me coke. my daughter n granddaughter had their favourite drink(my son had gone home buy this time as he wasn’t too well. but it was a simple outing. but one which i thoroughly enjoyed. the sun shone it was very warm. just right for the day. so yes simple but best birthday for a long long time for my kids n one of my grand kids was there with me. there’s always something you can do. yes you might need the help in one way or another to do things(i could not have done that on my own, nor would i have enjoyed it if i had. ).

  2. philipburdekin August 4, 2015 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    The lady made her own decision and that must be respected, R.I.P. I have vascular dementia and I want to carry on but only up to the time when I can’t care for myself and have to go in a N/Home, I have nothing left to offer my family or society and with that I have nothing to look forward to, no future no dreams.

  3. ian725 August 4, 2015 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Yes Mike it will reflect on the aged and the infirm who already feel unwanted . Why is it wrong to extend life. A couple decades ago we believed it was only right that the aged and the infirm were given all the help possible and encouraged to enjoy their retirements as much as possible. This was deeply entrenched within our society with most of us from the very young onwards only too willing to help, we understood the hardships and difficulties. Now it would seem that the aged and the infirm have become a burden to the rest of society and OBSCENE comments such as ‘ people are LIVING TOO LONG’ have become the norm with some of todays society. Bad government seems to have been blamed on certain minorities in modern society and we must fight to halt the trend.

  4. Joanna August 4, 2015 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    If i could do the same I would!!! and i’m only 44 I am so Sick of this world and this life. I have moved to a so called nice area to a bungalow, I can’t afford to decorate and carpet it, I can’t physically decorate either so it is just 4 walls to me to exist in.

  5. Joanna August 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    And I don’t have any family or loved ones apart from one amazing friend, who I feel a burden to constantly!!

    • sasson1 August 5, 2015 at 7:42 am - Reply

      I’ve lost most of my social group now Joanna so I sympathise deeply with you. Have you had a social care assessment? You may have to contribute towards any care, but they have to provide you with ‘socialisation’ hours, which means that someone is paid to take you out but you have to cover any additional expenses.

      Some local councils before the cuts provided people with help for things like decorating; it might be worth just giving them a call to see. Also, there are charities that most probably provide grants for this also. I know that my water company (as with most utilities) provides grants, not only for people who have fallen behind on their payments, but also for things that people may need who are in your circumstances; have a look at their websites. You could also try crowd funding; this is a really good way. I’d certainly donate towards it myself.

      Mike, you have my email address; I wrote a piece for you a couple of years back. Would you mind passing this onto Joanna please? I’m ill myself Joanna but I’d be happy to email with you and phone you (at my expense). I’ve asked people this over the years, and naturally people are reticent about people that they do not know, but it might help relieve the feelings that you have about being a burden on your friend.

      I have my own blog, though I don’t post very often now, so you could look at that or contact me through that:

      So many of us are sick of this life, but we have families and a few friends to keep us going; I’m sorry that this isn’t the case for you. Do get in touch.

      Sasson Hann

  6. Nick Fourbanks August 4, 2015 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I myself have had to endure like many the DWP over the years and that alone has made me very ill having to spend months in hospital every now and then

    I could understand this lady if she has had to endure what i have been through over the years but she hasn’t the DWP have not been able to get to her as she was 75 so i am at a loss as to why she would not wish to live any longer

    It could well be that the DWP and it’s rhetoric over the years on the sick and disabled did hit this lady hard and to cause her a form of depression of not wanting to stay alive

    My own view is that at 75 i myself would not wont to stay alive living in this country another country yes so i can understand the logic of Gill Pharaoh and as hard as it may seem to sum i understand her even if others cant

    The mind is the most complexed of any part of the body by a long way and it is about time the government understood that and not want these people dead as they themselves could at any point hit their head and lose their mind if not their life

    • sasson1 August 5, 2015 at 7:55 am - Reply

      My mum is 85 this year, and the last 10 years haven’t been good, with various operations, a stroke, and so on. That said, she recovered from these, and though she’s very tired all the time, she still insists on doing her own housework, and keeps active by making herself walk certain distances, makes clothes, makes cards and knits! That said, she asked her G.P. for a DNR if anything happened to her, which upset all of the family, but that is her choice.

      I can understand the lady not wanting to be a burden, I really do. After 20 years of severe illness however – that if your dog went through you’d put it to sleep – and even though I’m mostly house bound and can’t even have a day out let alone a holiday, I still find pleasure in being alive. I wake up each morning feeling like death, but I thank God for another day’s life.

      Up until last September, I was still able to produce some art – albeit a very painful experience ( I’ve been unable to do any more since then, and that was the last thing, the only thing that I had. No matter, I’m trying to focus on supporting people and helping them however I can now.

      When I’ve felt like taking my life, I’ve just held on for one more week, and I’ve found that something changes, even in a little way, to make life not only bearable, but enjoyable too:
      The old saying: ‘Where there’s life, there’s hope’ still holds true.

  7. Joan Edington August 4, 2015 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    I haven’t heard the whole of this story. Who did she say she was a burden to? Was it the state? If it was her family, did they somehow make her feel this way intentionally?

    • Mike Sivier August 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      She said she didn’t want to be a burden. There should be a link to the original story in this piece.

  8. kathleen breheney August 4, 2015 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Strange. y not wait till u r near 2 being a so-called burden, she could die a death that’s quick which doesn’t burden anyone. Something is very wrong with this story. I didn’t think these Clinics were allowed 2 assist in deaths of healthy people, I’m puzzled by that. The woman was overworrying about it & should NOT have been allowed 2 kill herself, she needed help 2 think more positively. We will all b encouraged now 2 top ourselves b4 needing a bit of help then, they’ll start with an “age” reach 40 & it’s time 2 swallow your lethal cocktail or maybe 30.

    • Mike Sivier August 4, 2015 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      That’s a bit Logan’s Run, that is.

  9. Jane jacques August 4, 2015 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    I can understand anyone with a serious terminal illness wanting to take their life. I have always been concerned about pressures being put on people to do so and how this Act would be policed. eg against family pressures such as elder abuse.
    Crimes within families are mainly hidden and difficult to detect and often have been taboo, such as child abuse, or domestic abuse. Elder abuse is still not talked about. Palliative care and other good care is the way forward.
    People speak of a good death, and for some people that might be so. However if your life is benefits amd sanctions unlikely. Wanting euthanasia is also part of today’s society of wanting control of your own life. Something’s are maybe beyond your control.

    • Mike Sivier August 4, 2015 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      I take it you can’t understand why someone who is perfectly healthy would want to be euthanized, though?

      • Jane jacques August 5, 2015 at 1:57 pm - Reply

        This lady was terrified of becoming a burden and the ill health that came with that. I can understand that, but that needed support and assurance that she wouldn’t be. I know some of the problems chronic illness can bring, and the thought of no improvement.
        This is just very sad that something she was so frightened of, might not
        have happened, and might not have been as bad as she feared if it did happen. Sad for family as well.

  10. Thomas August 5, 2015 at 12:22 am - Reply

    There is no suggestion that she was forced into it, but I could see this government making euthanasia compulsory given the chance.

    • Nick Fourbanks August 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      That would be very much the government’s plan make no mistake about it and yes IDS could pull it off as he has everything else he has done in his false life

      IDS at this time is at the same level of mind set as Hitler was in the war and like Hitler a charming man should you bump into him one of the very best and there lies the danger as to what happened in the war

      Was Hitler a great man and none of the genocide were down to him? Does IDS love the sick and disabled? He says he does so are we all wrong albeit they have died in their hundreds

      From my view point IDS in private is very good so i am reliably told and speaks well of the sick and disabled and is very troubled by their deaths

      So yes, IDS with his history of being embodied in controversy could kill thousands with compulsory euthanasia given a green light from the conservative public

      The bottom line is in life you only have a few minutes to judge what a person is thinking and just like a chess game getting it wrong means however good you are you will lose

      The key here is to understand what someone says and to what his or hers end game is as ultimately that is the only direction you will be heading so you need to fully understand the others logic or you will end up doomed or if a victim of IDS dead

      • ian725 August 6, 2015 at 12:20 am - Reply

        Nick I hope to God that you are wrong and that even the Tories could never make euthanasia compulsory. If they do it would force me to move North to Scotland ,join the SNP and fight the State . in fact the Motorways North may yet be full of Traffic Jams should this foolhardy Tory Government continue with their Looney policies.

  11. Peter John Farrington August 5, 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Sorry guys but this lady exercised her legal right to commit suicide as was her right under the existing legislation. She made a firm and settled decision about her own life and how she wished to leave it no more no less.

    Using the language of Euthanasia in this context is not just wrong but makes the disability “establishment” including yourself just as bad if not more so than the government in twisting the facts and language to suit your own position on this debate and I am sad to see such propaganda still so rife in our community with so few of us with a contrary position left out in the cold as always. :(

    • Mike Sivier August 5, 2015 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      It was euthanasia – she went to Switzerland and paid for someone else to end her life.
      My use of language was correct. It is yours that is skewed.
      May I ask why you are trying to influence people in such a tawdry way?

  12. Sabrina August 5, 2015 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    One person wanting to die shouldn’t make everyone suffering from any kind of illness, disability or old age feel threatened. Presumably this lady didn’t want to go to the length of suicide so chose an easier route. If she had committed suicide this story wouldn’t even have run (as presumably the usual conclusion that ‘she mustn’t have been of sound mind’ would have been drawn). I am nowhere near her age but am considering ‘ending it’ at some point before I reach any dependent illness or disability or old age. This doesn’t mean I think everyone who is disabled or ill or old should die or that their lives are not worthwhile. On the contrary, I’ve had my own lifelong experience of a form of disability albeit mild by comparison with many.

    The point is we are all different and forcing people to stay alive when they have made their own choice that they want to die is wrong. Everybody saying ‘it shouldn’t be like this’, and ‘people shouldn’t feel they are a burden’ etc., doesn’t fix the problem. It’s just words, and in the present climate of callousness they are empty words. Some people can go on no matter what, and some can’t. We are all different. My approach is not that I would ‘be a burden’ but that there are limits to what I want to put up with in life. Given the options of ending my days in a care home, profoundly dependent, possibly with dementia, or ‘ending it’ while still reasonably fit and well I choose the latter. Others won’t, and I respect their choice as they should respect mine.

    • Mike Sivier August 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      She still wanted to end her own life, despite the fact that there was no health-related reason to do so. Doesn’t that, in fact, indicate that she was not of sound mind?

      To me, you seem to be arguing for the cheapening of life. Not so long ago, people were told what a great gift life is, and what a crime (legal or moral, I don’t mind) it would be to waste it. Now here you are, saying it’s wrong to force people to stay alive. Nobody is forcing anyone to do that at all – it is dying that is being forced on people – even when presented, as you are doing, as a lifestyle choice.

      You are also failing to consider the bigger issue – the fact that your Conservative Government will not respect anybody’s choice. It will work very hard to present what Mrs Pharoah has done as attractive – the better choice for the person and the family, even when there’s nothing wrong with them. In fact, it seems some people are already working to that agenda.

      • Sabrina August 5, 2015 at 5:55 pm - Reply

        They’re not my Conservative government – I voted Labour and am a Corbyn supporter. Forced euthanasia would be abhorrent in the extreme and the sign of a depraved society.

        There are two issues here that I don’t want to confuse. I’m totally with you on state sponsored suicide which is effectively what is happening under this government re sanctions and people being forced into poverty and homelessness. Like you I view that situation with horror. However, this lady was not in that position. She chose to die because she didn’t want to experience the potential distress of old age. Much of that can’t be avoided no matter how benevolent the state (and ours is becoming less benevolent by the day). Why shouldn’t someone want to ‘quit while they’re ahead’? I believe her decision was one made by a sound mind. The talk of being a burden has been emphasised too much. For me at least it’s about the avoidance of suffering. I have watched relatives suffer and know I don’t want to go through that myself. She had seen this full-on as a nurse.

        There are many people, as I mentioned above, who love life and would put up with anything to stay alive. I am not one of them, but I support their right to be supported by the state to do so. I think you are saying that people wanting to die when they are well cheapens the lives of those who are not, or who are disabled. I can see this point of view but there’s no easy answer. It comes down to pro-choice on suicide and I don’t think there will ever be a consensus on that.

        • Mike Sivier August 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm - Reply

          If you live in the UK, it’s your Conservative Government. I also voted Labour and am a Corbyn supporter but those Tories are running my country whether I like it or not.

          I dispute your belief that Mrs Pharoah was of sound mind. It is not a sign of sanity to want to end your life when there is nothing wrong with you. The desire for dignity in death – for example when suffering from a progressive condition for which there is no cure and none foreseeable – is a completely separate issue.

          I note that you appreciate my point of view on her attitude cheapening the lives of others in worse health and am grateful for that.

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