Woman's assisted dying campaign tribute to mother and husband

Zoe Hyatt-Marley, right, pictured with husband Dr Andrew Hyatt.

Zoe Hyatt-Marley, right, pictured with husband Dr Andrew Hyatt. - Credit: Zoe Hyatt-Marley

A woman whose mother chose to take her life before a terminal illness killed her has had to endure her husband suffering the same fate just two years later.

Zoë Hyatt-Marley, from Cromer, paid tribute to her husband Dr Andrew Hyatt, who took his own life in June, two years after being diagnosed with terminal colon cancer.

In 2018, her mother Judith Marley took her life after saying she would not let an aggressive skin cancer diagnosis "do its worst".

Mrs Hyatt-Marley has been campaigning for assisted dying to be legalised for years, and has backed a bill which is currently going through the House of Lords.

It would allow terminally ill adults, with fewer than six months to live, to choose to end their life, if two doctors, a judge and a witness agreed.

Zoe Marley with a photograph of her mother. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Zoe Hyatt-Marley with a picture of her mother. - Credit: Archant

She said: "I know the emotional impact of a terminal diagnosis, it's a really tough one to live through.

"Andrew was always worrying what it was going to look like at the end of the journey. He asked 'will I be able to cope with the dying process?'

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"He wanted to be able to appreciate his world and he was really, really terrified it would be taken away from him."

She said he felt his life was "wretched" towards the end, and said - if it were already law - he would have used the Assisted Dying Bill to end his life.

"He saw my mum's brain cancer and what it did to her and how difficult these symptoms were to manage," she said.

Currently, assisted dying is illegal in the UK, and anyone deemed to help a person take their life can be arrested under the Assisted Suicide Act.

When Mrs Hyatt-Marley's mother first tried to end her life, police - fearing her daughter had been involved - were called and threatened her with action.

Zoe Marley with a photograph of her mother. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Zoe Hyatt-Marley. - Credit: Archant

But she said, without legal provision, people felt forced into arguably more dangerous positions to take control.

"This is going on behind closed doors and people aren't talking about it because they are afraid," she said.

A form of assisted dying would regulate what was already happening, she said.

Looking forward, she now wants to turn tragedy into a positive.

"It was unbelievable it was happening again," she said. "It is unbelievable. I had to try and make sense of what has happened.

"I really don't want anybody to go through my journeys," she said. "I would really not like to see other families suffer."

She said she and her husband, who was 72, had spoken about travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland, where people go to end their lives, but that he said he was British, had lived here his whole life and wanted to die here.

Dr Hyatt was a consultant endodontist, and his wife said: "He was a man who was intelligent, he was well-read, he was a poet, he was interested in politics.

"He loved wine tastings, he was very accomplished.

"He was a level-headed man who knew his own mind."

Opponents to assisted dying fear the consequences for vulnerable people, for society and for the medical profession, if doctors are permitted to actively induce death.

Concerns have often centred on whether a vulnerable person could be taken advantage of by others.

But Mrs Hyatt-Marley said the current system, where there was no regulation, risked being more dangerous.

The assisted dying bill would permit an adult who is terminally ill, with fewer than six months to live, to be assisted in ending their life, provided a declaration is signed by them, a witness, two doctors and a High Court family division judge.

Peers and guests sit in the House of the Lords as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrives to deliver th

The House of Lords, where the bill is currently being examined. - Credit: PA

It is currently at the committee stage of the House of Lords. There are many more stages for it to pass, including through the House of Commons.

It has been sponsored by Baroness Molly Meacher, chair of Dignity in Dying.

It is not the first time a similar bill has been put forward - it is modelled on one tabled by Lord Falconer in 2014, which was supported by peers at second reading, but the parliamentary session ended before it could progress further.

What is assisted dying - and where is it legal?

In the UK, assisted dying, assisted suicide and euthanasia are all illegal.

While definitions vary, largely, euthanasia is understood to be medical intervention to end suffering, usually associated with the medical profession. This is illegal.

Assisted suicide covers another person helping someone to die, and includes illnesses that are incurable or chronic, but not necessarily terminal. This is illegal under the Suicide Act.

MPs are set to debate assisted dying. Photo: Tim Irelan

The House of Lords, where the bill is being debated. - Credit: PA

Assisted dying is where a mentally competent adult, who has a terminal illness, is given the power to end their life when they choose. Most campaigning in the UK centres on this.

The latter is legal in some US states, Canada, Australia and most recently New Zealand, where it becomes legal this month.

Noel Conway 

For many people, the name that comes to mind over the assisted dying debate is Noel Conway.

Mr Conway, from Shropshire, who died this year aged 71, had motor neurone disease and only had movement in his right hand, head and neck.

He argued his right to die in the Supreme Court, but lost his appeal in 2018.

He died at home after deciding with his family to remove his ventilator.

In a statement, he said his quality of life had "dipped into the negative", saying he recognised it was the time to take the decision to take action.

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