Man with MND fighting for right to die says starving himself is ‘best outcome’


Gerald Sutherland, 70, says he would like to have the option to end his life ‘at the right time’ as his Motor Neurone Disease progresses. He fears he will suffer if not

Gerald Sutherland is fighting for the right to die

A man diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) is fighting for the power to end his own life when it progresses – and says he will starve himself to avoid suffering for longer.

Gerald Sutherland, 70, from Kirkinner in Wigtownshire, says he goes to bed at night not knowing if he will be able to walk or talk the next day.

The former welder was diagnosed with MND two years ago and is aware the illness is taking away more of his vital functions, reports the DailyRecord.

Gerald lived for years in The Netherlands with wife Anita, who is Dutch.

He could go there for an “assisted suicide” but wouldn’t want Anita to be charged with assisting a death when she gets back to Scotland.

He said: “So many countries give people like me the freedom and choice they don’t offer in Scotland.

“I didn’t choose to have MND. I got stuck with it and now have to think about how it ends for me.

“I can’t choose the humane way.

Gerald with his wife Anita in happier times

“I can’t allow myself to slip away at a moment of my choosing when the life I have left is not really living.

“The only choices I have will be to take my own life, somehow, or starve myself to death.

“If I choose the first, I’ll probably make a mess of it and make my situation worse.

“So, I’d imagine the latter is probably be the best outcome I can hope for.”

Despite his plight he remains cheerful and even jokes as he explains the hopelessness that accompanies the illness, which attacks the brain and nerves.

He said: “I don’t talk about it as taking away, more the gift that keeps giving in that it adds pain and discomfort on a daily basis.

“I go to bed at night and don’t know what the next day will bring.

“One day I woke up and couldn’t walk, then the next I could.

“On another morning I woke up and the MND seemed to have found the weakness in my wrist from where I broke it 50 or so years ago.”

Gerald, who worked for Ford Motors before becoming a welder in The Netherlands, was diagnosed two years ago after he started falling over for no reason.

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The illness forced him to stop his part-time job at a publisher’s office. Anita, 56, also had to give up work to look after Gerald and now helps out part-time at local farms, feeding calves.

He has marvelled at the strength of fellow MND sufferer Doddie Weir, a former Scotland rugby player.

He said: “He’s some man but the thing I see in him I feel myself is the emotional state you get into.

“MND makes you feel very teary.”

He added: “If a doctor tells me I’m about to go downhill, I’ll be asking how I can go steeper and faster.

“I’m fully aware the last six months of my life will be utter hell.”

Gerald supports Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur’s private Assisted Dying Bill, currently subject to a public consultation.

He said: “I’ve looked at it and the safeguards are pretty strong.

“I don’t think there is anything to fear in the proposals as it will be people like me making decisions with a clear mind about their own lives.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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