TORONTO — Actor Patrick Stewart says he supports assisted suicide and hopes he will be allowed to “die with dignity.”
“I have to consider the fact of my own mortality,” Stewart said. “I have come to see planning for death is simply another aspect of planning for life. It is part of a process of making sure the people you love will be taken care of, emotionally as well as practically.”
Stewart revealed he has a “living will” that provides specific instructions to doctors to withhold care from him in certain circumstances.
Stewart shared the story of his friend Gillian Pinder, a 53-year-old with terminal cancer who sent her partner David out to walk their dog and then suffocated herself with a plastic bag.
“So desperate was she to be free of a world that … refused her the chance to die in dignity, that she had to die alone and in terrible pain,” he recalled.
“She ended her life in a terrible way, all alone.”
Calling the UK’s laws about assisted suicide “barbaric,” Stewart said “Gillian should have been allowed the choice to quietly slip away in David’s arms.”
He added: “I believe that choice at the end of life should include a change in the law to permit the option of assisted dying for people who are dying. It is cruel and inhumane that we compel people such as Gillian to end her life alone.”
Assisted suicide is legal in a small number of European countries and in four American states. Politicians in the UK — where polls show a majority support it — will debate an assisted dying bill next month.
In Canada, the issue will once again go before the Supreme Court in October. Currently, helping someone die is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years behind bars.
“There is something broken and savage,” Stewart wrote, “about a law that says when you are so ill, so full of cancerous pain, you cannot have your family, your pets, the things that made your life valuable, to comfort you when you choose to die.”