Terminally ill businessman ends his life at Swiss clinic as right-to-die debate is reignited
Friends and campaigners pay tribute to Simon Binner
Published 20/10/2015 | 07:58
Friends and family of a terminally-ill British businessman who travelled to Switzerland to end his life at a suicide clinic paid tribute to him as the case reignited the row over assisted suicide laws.
Simon Binner, 57, who was diagnosed with aggressive motor neurone disease in January, visited the Eternal Spirit clinic in Basel accompanied at his bedside by his wife Debbie and his 85-year-old mother.
It is the first case of a British person travelling to an overseas clinic case since MPs voted down laws for assisted suicide.
Yesterday the British Humanist Association (BHA), which has been working with Mr Binner's family, said that Mr Binner's battle "may now be at an end" but his death will prompt fresh court action to overturn the decision.
Mr Binner and his wife had earlier recorded videos in which they urged the UK to change the law on assisted dying, stating that they would rather he had had the option of a "gentler" and "less dramatic" death at home, which may also have allowed him to spend Christmas with his family.
Mr Binner travelled to Switzerland over the weekend with his wife Debbie and other relatives, said to include his 85-year-old mother. He was expected to die on Monday at the Eternal Spirit clinic in Basel.
His step-daughter Hannah, posted a touching tribute to him on Monday lunchtime, posting a photograph of the family group in Basel with the caption: "My beautiful inspirations."
Other friends also bid farewell to Mr Binner on social media sites, describing him as a "brave" and "courageous man".
One wrote: "He has taken a brave and public stand on the right to end his life with dignity. Our prayers are with Simon and his family and I sincerely hope the UK will fast-track some more human legislation."
Another wrote: "Stay strong my friend, enjoy your time with your beautiful family."
Mr Binner, from Purley, Surrey, was said to be a "high energy workaholic" who loved skiing, mountain-biking and tennis before the diagnosis.
The Cambridge-educated father-of-three was director of a care firm.
He wrote on LinkedIn last week: "I died in Switzerland with Eternal Spirit on Mon 19 Oct 2015 and my funeral was on Fri 13 Nov 2015."
He added: "My MND accelerated very rapidly. The sawbones initially thought I would last until 2017/2018, but they were mistaken - no worries, it's an inexact science!
"I don't recommend MND! Better to have one massive fatal stroke or be killed instantly by a drunk driver! There is nothing that I can say that's positive about MND."
In a video filmed with the law firm Bindmans LLP, his wife of 14 years, a former Sky News presenter, said he "strongly" believed he had the legal right to choose when he will die.
Mrs Binner told how her husband had been rushed into choosing when he would die because assisted suicide is illegal in Britain.
In a clip posted on YouTube, she said: "He doesn't want to go to Switzerland and he doesn't want to go into a hospital. He wants to be at home as much as possible with his friends and family.
"And I think the most important thing to say is that Simon believes if that was available in the UK he may well want to stay alive longer. Christmas would be lovely for us to have Simon."
In another video, she said his condition was like "waking up to a nightmare every morning".
"The horror of it all for someone who is very much a communicator, a very big character, very much a leader... an alpha male who has a lot to say.
"And that has happened in a period of about seven months."
Mr Binner, who spoke with a slur, said: "I don't want to go to Switzerland either. I want to be here for Christmas but I can't be because I don't know. I have to go."
He said the law which makes it assisted dying a criminal offence in the UK was a "nonsense".
MPs rejected the Assisted Dying Bill. in September.
BHA Chief executive Andrew Copson previously said: "The tragedy at the heart of Simon’s story is that if the law allowed people with incurable and terminal conditions to seek a doctor-assisted death in this country, he and others like him would have more time to spend with their loved ones before their conditions became intolerable for them.
"The current law heaps unnecessary suffering and trauma on to families like the Binners. Our thoughts of course continue to be with them at this difficult time."
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, a leading figure in Reform Judaism and patron of the Dignity in Dying campaign group, said: "MPs should feel guilty that, by rejecting the Assisted Suicide Bill last month, they have forced terminally ill patients like Simon Binner to take their life earlier than they would have wished - having to do so when they are fit enough to travel to Switzerland and Dignitas rather than be able to die at home at a later date.
"While there must be strong safeguards to prevent abuse, what is gained by forcing those dying in pain to live on against their will?
"Their is nothing sacred about suffering and in it is more religious to allow the terminally ill to end their own life if that is what they so wish."
There are about 5,000 people living with MND in the UK, according to the NHS. The patient eventually becomes entirely paralysed - unable to move, talk, swallow or breathe, but still able to see, hear and feel. There is no known cure.