Blyth MSA sufferer bids for change in the law on assisted suicide

Former nurse Aileen Tuff has multiple system atrophy (MSA), which affects five in 100,000 people and slowly imprisons the individual in their body

Former nurse Aileen Tuff
Former nurse Aileen Tuff

A grandmother with a rare life-limiting neurological disease has called for the Government to change its legislation on assisted suicide.

Former nurse Aileen Tuff has multiple system atrophy (MSA), which affects five in 100,000 people and slowly imprisons the individual in their body.

The degenerative condition attacks the brain and nervous system and – similarly to Parkinson’s disease – can lead to sufferers losing feeling and control of their body.

Mrs Tuff, who is married to Garry , 53, was diagnosed with MSA in February last year and is on medication five times a day, which has so far stabilised her condition. But the 52-year-old knows there will come a time when she will be unable to walk, talk or feed herself and when that happens she is aware she may wish she was no longer here.

Assisted suicide is illegal in England and Wales but Labour peer Lord Falconer is tabling a Bill calling for a change in the laws, supported by a series of safeguards.

Mrs Tuff, of Blyth, Northumberland, said: “As long as the person is declared as having the medical capacity to make the decision then they should be allowed to do what they want.

Aileen Tuff has multiple system atrophy
Aileen Tuff has multiple system atrophy

“I think the Government should have meetings with different people with different conditions to get their views and opinions on the important issue.

“I would be willing to go and talk to the Government about this subject to help ministers understand how people in my situation may feel. There should be a change in legislation. People should not feel forced to take their own lives, but they should have the choice to do so if they have the mental capacity to make that decision.”

Mrs Tuff’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with MSA and she now makes the most of each day as the illness will take her life prematurely. The grandmother-of-two recently parachute-jumped to raise hundreds for the Multiple System Atrophy Trust and spends a lot of time with her son, Sean Donkin, 32, daughter-in-law Stacey, 27, and grandchildren, Stephanie, five, and Chloe, 18-months.

Mrs Tuff said: “My life changed forever the day I found out I got the diagnosis I had MSA. What scared me more than anything was that it was a fairly unknown disease that few people have ever even heard about, but it can strike anyone at any time.

“It is a nightmare and at first I felt that I couldn’t cope with it, but in life everybody has good and bad times and it was my turn for the bad.”

The Ministry of Justice insists the Government welcomes the opportunity for further public debate which Lord Falconer's Bill may provide.

A spokesperson said: “The Government believes that any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is an issue of individual conscience and a matter for Parliament to decide rather than Government policy.”


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