My Time To Die: Nick Ferrari Follows Dementia Patient To Swiss Clinic

2 July 2019, 07:42 | Updated: 3 July 2019, 07:40

WARNING: The following deals with issues surrounding assisted dying, which some viewers may find upsetting.

Every eight days, a Briton travels abroad for help to die. Nick Ferrari is following one such person, who is looking to take control of their own death.

Alex Pandolfo is a 64-year-old former lecturer suffering with early onset Alzheimers. His plan is to travel to Switzerland later this year, where he'll be helped to end his life.

He originally called in to Nick Ferrari's show in March. He told us he was diagnosed with Alzheimers four years ago and he made a decision almost immediately, having cared for his father for five years.

After speaking to Alex, Nick opined: "There can be no decision with more gravity than whether or not to end your life."

Nick meets Alex near his home in Lancaster
Nick meets Alex near his home in Lancaster. Picture: LBC

Assisted dying is legal for the terminally ill and sound of mind in Switzerland, Canada, parts of Australia and seven US states. Here in the UK, however, helping someone to end their life carries a jail term of up to 14 years.

But there is a fight raging over who gets to decide when life ends. At its core, the question of whether we should be able to choose our own time to die?

Research suggests up to 1,000 people a year receive illegal medical assistance to end their own life.

A Populous poll earlier this year found that 84% of people support a change in the law.

Pro-Assisted dying protesters with Noel Conway
Pro-Assisted dying protesters with Noel Conway. Picture: PA

Alex got his diagnosis four years ago and he was given 4-5 years to live, although doctors said he could live for up to 11 years with reducing capacity.

Over the next few months, Alex's Alzheimers will mean he will get increasingly confused and disorientated. Eventually, he won't even be able to recognise himself in the mirror.

He wants to travel to Switzerland before that happens to end his life.

Alex's wall of photos, aimed at triggering his memories
Alex's wall of photos, aimed at triggering his memories. Picture: LBC

Nick travelled to Lancaster to find out more about Alex. And on one thing, Alex was very clear. "I don't want to die," he said. "I do not want to die. I want to live with an accessible quality of life for as long as I possibly can.

"But as soon as I can't cope and be independent in the life I'm living, then I don't want that. I don't want to go into an old folks' home, it's not for me.

"When it becomes increasingly more difficult for me to communicate on a one-to-one basis. Once, I got in the shower, I knew why I'd got into the shower, but couldn't work out how to start that process. When things like that start happening a couple of times a month, I think that's an indicator.

"I probably wouldn't be ready to die then, I could probably live longer, but I daren't chance losing capacity."

He told Nick he was worried about being physically abusive to people, something he had to suffer with when his dad went through the same thing.

Alex, at home speaking with Nick Ferrari
Alex, at home speaking with Nick Ferrari. Picture: LBC

When he gets to Switzerland, he will have to convince a doctor that he is of sound mind to make the informed choice to end his life, as well as having the physical ability to do it.

Nick will follow Alex to the clinic when the time comes.

Alex demonstrates the action he will have to carry out in order to end his life in the Swiss clinic
Alex demonstrates the action he will have to carry out in order to end his life in the Swiss clinic. Picture: LBC

What does Alex imagine the end to be like? "Probably the best trip of my life," he says with a laugh.

If you're affected by any of the issues discussed in My Time To Die, please contact one of these helplines:

Samaritans: 116123

Alzheimers Society: 0300 222 11 22