Sunday 4 December 2016

MS sufferer (50) fighting for right-to-die: 'I was a nun for 15 years and if I want to die, God will say you’ve suffered enough'

Geraldine Gittens

Published 15/01/2016 | 13:05

Kate Tobin (50) was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago.
Kate Tobin (50) was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago.

A former nun who has multiple sclerosis and is campaigning for the right to die has hit out at critics who say she cannot take her life into her own hands.

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Kate Tobin (50) from Lismore, Co Waterford worked as a palliative care nurse until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013.

Now, Kate takes 50 tablets a day to battle the degenerative disease, and she says it’ll be a miracle if she sees her 60th birthday.

“I’ve got very little leg movement, I go into spasm, I’ve got poor swallow, I’ve got terrible pain, I can’t walk more than 100metres. I need a wheelchair if I’m going anywhere more than that.”

“I can wake up every morning with a different symptom. The fatigue is terrible, I sleep on the sofa up to eight or ten hours, my body would zonk out.”

“I’m on pain medication, stuff to stop spasms, I’m prone to low blood pressure, and I’m prone to throwing up, nausea, so it literally is all the side effects of MS.”

Kate left the Augustinian order in the UK after 15 years to become a nurse at the renowned Harley Street Clinic in London. Her medical background means she’s very aware of her prognosis, and she can predict the symptoms ahead of her.

“Chances are when my swallow goes, I’ll end up having to be fed directly into my stomach. If I become a hospital case, they’ll be turning me, cleaning my mouth, cleaning me, doing everything for me, because I’m incontinent now, I wear pads.”

“In a few months’ time, I’m going to see a neurologist to get a bag because it’ll save me wetting myself because my skin gets very sore.”

“When my MS gets too bad like Marie Fleming I’m going to need somebody to help me commit suicide. I don’t want my death cert to say suicide and I don’t want the person that helps me to end up with six or eight years in prison.”

Kate is determined to campaign for her right to die, just like the late Marie Fleming who died on December 20, 2013. Ms Fleming brought her fight to challenge the ban on assisted suicide to the High Court, and later appealed it in the Supreme Court, but the ruling against her was upheld.

Today, Kate told independent.ie: “I’m making the message known that I’m not afraid of dying. I was on the local radio here the other day and I had born again Christians telling me I had no right to take my own life.”

“I felt like saying I was a nun for 15 years and if I want to die, God will say you’ve suffered enough and he’ll say come in to heaven, he won’t say off to purgatory with you.”

“I wear a different hyosine patch on my neck every three days to stop me choking on my saliva. I asked one of the born-again Christians if I couldn’t remove it, would you remove it for me, and he said ‘no’, and I said you’d be helping me commit suicide because I’d be choking on my own saliva.”

Kate is due to move into an adapted home in Wexford which will be wheelchair accessible. While this will give her a new lease of life, she says she will not stop her campaign for the right to die.

“It won’t change. I’ll be on my own and have time to think about it. I want to make a plan. I’m adamant that I want to die. I don’t want to become a 24-hour patient in hospital, being fed and having a catheter emptied, and being fed on fluids, I know what it’s like to do that to patients.”

“I’m too ill to travel to Switzerland. I’d have to bring somebody with me, and then there’s the possibility of them being charged when they come back.”

“I feel like if I live to 60 it’d be a miracle. The consultant told me if I celebrated my 50th I wouldn’t celebrate many more. I celebrated it last September, the family put on a big do for my 50th.”

Kate says if she lost the use of her hands, it would signify a loss of dignity for her.

“My dignity is everything to me. My love of reading – if that was taken from me, the use of my hands, if I couldn’t hold up a book, they’re my life - it’s another part of my independence gone.”

“People are saying to suffer with it til the end, but the end could be 20 years.”

“I know when I get to Heaven, God is going to say welcome my child. St Peter is not going to say you can’t come here, go to purgatory.”

“I have talked to a nun and I have spoke to a priest, and the priest said you’re not going to do it immediately are you. He said I agree with you because you’re suffering. He said there’s always a smile on your face but your body could be wracked with suffering.”

Kate urgently needs €5,000 to equip her new adapted home with basic materials like linen, cutlery and white goods, and she is appealing to the public to help her.

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