A PRESTEIGNE man has talked of his distress at being reported to the police as a “potential murderer” for discussing assisted suicide as an option for his terminally ill father.

Powys County Council (PCC) said it has a duty to report such cases but the Dignity in Dying organisation believes it would be safer for all involved to introduce a “robust, transparent assisted dying law” that provides choice and control to terminally ill, mentally competent adults who want it while protecting the rest of society.

Jonathan Wilson, of Ford Street, wrote to the County Times to say he had been called by a trainee social worker, working with PCC, to offer support to him as a carer for his terminally ill, and recently hospitalised, 88-year-old father.

He said: “During the conversation I mentioned that I support the right to die with dignity and assistance and that my father and I had discussed the possibility of supporting him to end his life at a time and place of his own choosing.

“We discussed all the various possibilities, but my father has chosen to live - as comfortably as we can make him - until he dies naturally: This, of course, is what we are working - very hard - towards achieving. All this was explained - almost in passing conversation - with the trainee social worker.

“Assisted suicide is part of the national discourse and is something which I campaign for whenever possible. To discuss it, as part of our family, at the very time when it was most appropriate is - or was - a fundamental freedom of speech which I had thought we enjoyed in the UK without threats of police investigation.

“However, at the very time when my father was incredibly unwell, in Hereford Hospital, and when I was exhausted from visiting him daily and doing all I could to secure the best care for him, Powys Social Services decided to report me to the police for criminal investigation as a potential murderer.

“I was taken to a side room, in Hereford Hospital, and told - by caring hospital staff - that I could expect a visit from the police.

“My anger and distress are beyond the English language. To attempt to stifle free speech, to threaten someone who is struggling to do their best to care for a dying relative, to categorise that same person as a potential murderer is so abhorrent that it is truly beyond belief.

“It would appear that ‘safe guarding’ has now turned into an extreme and unwarranted exercise which causes distress and harm to the very people social services purport to want to support.”

A spokesman for PCC commented: “We would not be able to comment on any service user’s personal situation. However, under Part 7 of the Social Services and Wellbeing Act the local authority has a duty to make an enquiry if there is reasonable cause to suspect an adult within its area is an Adult at Risk as defined by the Act.”

Tom Davies of campaign group Dignity in Dying, added: “Although we cannot comment on the specifics of this case, it raises the question of whether the current law is fit for purpose.

“If loving family members are being criminalised for their compassion and personal views on assisted dying - views shared by 84 per cent of the public - even without any action having taken place, then clearly the system is broken.

“We of course recognise that genuine safeguarding concerns must be investigated, however it would be safer for all involved - dying people, their loved ones and healthcare professionals - to introduce a robust, transparent assisted dying law that provides choice and control to terminally ill, mentally competent adults who want it while protecting the rest of society.

“It would allow dying people to discuss their wishes openly with their families and healthcare professionals, take agonising decisions out of the hands of loved ones and allow any suspected safeguarding issues to be investigated openly from the very start. There is no reason why the UK cannot follow in the footsteps of several American and Australian states and Canada in legislating for a safe, compassionate assisted dying law.”

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