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Dignitas suicide: British man ends his life at Swiss clinic as he could not face dementia

He chose to travel to the controversial Dignitas clinic because he could not face the agony of the incurable disease

Mirror

A British man has become the first dementia sufferer to die at a controversial suicide clinic.

The 83-year-old man ended his life at Dignitas in Switzerland because he could not face the agony of the progressive, incurable disease.

He also wanted to spare those closest to him from any burden and strain his illness might put on them.

The unnamed man, said to be from a wealthy professional background, was in the early stages of dementia.

He is believed to be the first to use the clinic’s services solely because of dementia.

And last night it was claimed his family, including his widow, backed his decision “100 per cent”.

The man took with him a report from a psychiatrist stating he was mentally competent to choose to kill himself.

And last night one campaigner told how the pensioner was “so grateful at the end.”

Retired GP Michael Irwin, 81, had arranged for him to see a psychiatrist to produce a report saying he was mentally competent.

He revealed that the man’s wife had made the travel arrangements for the trip to Zurich.

Mr Irwin, who did not travel with the couple, said yesterday: “His family were 100% behind him.

"I have spoken to his widow since and she felt that it was handled in a very dignified and proper manner.”

“She is extremely happy about how everything was arranged.”

He added: “I have been four times with people to Switzerland.

"Two were terminally ill, one was very disabled and one was in her mid 80s so I have seen how it is handled by the Swiss. It is a very dignified procedure.

“You have got to be a very determined person to be able or willing to make that kind of journey.

“He knew of how things would deteriorate and took what I think is a sensible decision… both for himself and his family.”

But news of the assisted suicide will cause outrage among right-to-life and healthcare campaigners.

Critics claim it carries the implication that those with dementia should consider killing themselves.

Experts point out that sufferers can live for years with the condition.

It is also likely to widen the debate over the circumstances in which assisted suicide should be permitted.

The vast majority people who have chosen to die at Dignitas are those with terminal illnesses such as cancer or severe physical disabilities.

Campaign group Care Not Killing described the development as “alarming”.

Mr Irwin – nicknamed Dr Death - claims to have helped at least 25 people to die at the clinic. In the past he has been interviewed by police, but never arrested.

Although legal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is a criminal offence in the UK and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

More than 800,000 people in Britan suffer from dementia – around one in ten of all those between 80 and 84.

Mr Irwin defended the pensioner’s right to take his life before his condition deteriorated.

He said: “It takes three or four months on average from the day you make an application until the actual day you die in Zurich.

"So when people have a chronic problem or a slow-developing condition such as motor neurone disease, dementia or are severely disabled you have a crucial time factor.

“It’s important to stress that with early dementia, you are still then mentally competent for quite some time to make a decision about going to Dignitas.

"It’s important that diagnosis is made at an early time to give an individual that choice.”

Lord Falconer, a former Lord Chancellor, launched a private member’s bill in the Lords earlier this month to make assisted dying legal for the terminally ill.

Novelist Sir Terry Pratchett, 65, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, is also a supporter and has become a flagbearer in the campaign to change the law.

Mr Irwin, co-ordinator of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide, says the legal right should be extended to elderly people suffering from medical conditions and those who are severely disabled or enduring unbearable suffering.

He added: “This topic of old-age rational suicide should now be openly discussed. Lord Falconer’s bill will be focusing only on the terminally ill.

"The other two categories, the severely disabled and the elderly with medical problems, should be equally well discussed nowadays, especially with an ageing population.”

The number of dementia victims in the UK is set to rise to more than a million by 2021 – and 1.7 million by 2050.

Mr Irwin argues that elderly sufferers may prefer thousands of pounds that would be spent on their care to go to their grandchildren.

He said: “The desire to ‘stop being a burden’ on one’s family, and to avoid squandering financial resources perhaps better spent on grandchildren’s further education, could become the final altruistic gesture, especially when combined with a wish to stop prolonging a life that is both futile and very unpleasant.”

He claimed: “Part of what makes a patient’s suffering intolerable could be the realisation that it is ruining other people’s lives.

"Then, a doctor assisted suicide could be a rational moral act.”

But critics fear that if euthanasia was legalised there would be pressure to widen the category of people to be included.

A spokesman for Care Not Killing said: “It’s hugely alarming and shows the real agenda of those seeking a change in the law.

"What they are looking for is assisted suicide or euthanasia almost on demand.

“We’ve been warning about an incremental approach, as once you change the law you get more and more cases like this, which is why we are so worried.

“We know that people who are vulnerable, disabled and terminally ill will be most under pressure.”

More than 200 Brits have died at Dignitas since it first opened in 1998.

Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg has previously said he plans to kill himself if he begins to suffer from dementia.

The arts presenter, 73, whose mother had Alzheimer’s disease until her death last year aged 95, said: “Legal or illegal, I will do it.”

He added: “We can’t keep sending people to Switzerland. We should say, given certain conditions, it’s fine.”

£5k and all over in 30 minutes

The price of a suicide at Dignitas is believed to be around £5,000.

But the full service, including funerals, medical costs and official fees, can be as high as £7,000.

Clients must register as a member and send copies of their medical records with a letter explaining why things have become intolerable.

A doctor then assesses them. If he gives the “green light”, administrative staff will schedule a date and offer advice on hotels.

Finally the client is filmed drinking the lethal solution of barbiturates in water to prove they took it themselves.

Those who cannot lift a glass press a button so a machine administers it.

Most people take between 30 minutes and an hour to die.

Brits who've died at Dignitas

MORE than 200 Brits have died at Dignitas in the past decade.

One of the most controversial deaths was in 2006 when terminally ill Craig Ewert, 59, was filmed dying at the clinic for a television documentary.

The programme, which sparked fury from anti-euthanasia groups, was the first time a suicide had been shown on British TV.

Retired university professor Craig had motor neurone disease.

In February 2009, millionaire husband and wife Peter Duff, 80, and Penelope, 70, who both had terminal cancer, were the first British couple to die together at the centre.

Top orchestral conductor Sir Edward Downes, 85, and his 74-year-old wife Joan died at the clinic five months later.

Lady Downes had terminal cancer while her husband was nearly blind and becoming increasingly deaf.

Daniel James, 23, who was paralysed in a rugby accident, was the youngest Briton to die at the clinic.

His parents Julie and Mark James, of Sinton Green, Worcester, took him to there in 2010.

They said the ex-England under-16 rugby player had repeatedly said he wanted to die.

The CPS said it was not in the public interest to prosecute his parents.

No one who has helped any of the Brits to die at Dignitas has been prosecuted.

Suicide is not a crime but it is illegal to encourage or assist suicide while in England or Wales, regardless of where the suicide takes place.

The majority of clients at Dignitas take between 30 minutes and one hour to die.

Voice of the Mirror: Dignity is a right too

Assisted suicide is a deeply emotional and ethical issue which understandably creates strong feelings.

Our report on an 83-year-old with dementia who ended his life at the Swiss Dignitas clinic adds another dimension to the debate.

This paper believes both sides of the argument should be heard and respected.

Some campaigners will fear this case could lead to a relaxation of the rules and place pressure on the vulnerable who feel they are a burden on their family and loved ones.

Others will argue the laws should be changed so those who are dying and feel they have no quality of life do not have to travel to Switzerland to end their life in dignity.

Nor will they think it is right that those who assist in such deaths, out of compassion, should be liable to prosecution.

Lord Falconer, a former lord chancellor, is seeking to change the law to make assisted dying legal for the terminally ill.

Any such legislation must be sensitively crafted and we should consider carefully before extending such rights to people with long-term conditions such as dementia.

There is much debate to be had but it would be wrong to ignore the wishes of those who, in very rare cases, want to kill themselves.

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You probably have to look at imagery of death and dying regularly to stay focused on what really counts in life: great sex before you are gone anyway.

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Private parts: Is ‘scrotox’ next?

Vaginal rejuvenation has gone from hush-hush to trending. The scenario will likely be much the same for men. They, too, want sexual parts to look and feel better, and men are starting to make those desires known, according to Beverly Hills, Calif., dermatologic surgeon Jason Emer, M.D.

“I have many younger male patients who are interested in this,” Dr. Emer says. “As the vaginal rejuvenation market is skyrocketing, men are seeking their own type of rejuvenation. Who wouldn’t want to be a little bit longer, thicker, or have more sensitivity and a better sex life? These men are also becoming interested in the cosmetic appearance of the actual penis and scrotum itself.”

The potential patient population also includes older men, who might have erectile dysfunction, resulting from age or health issues, such as prostate cancer treatment or high blood pressure, as well as cosmetic concerns that keep them from feeling good during intimacy or being comfortable naked, according to Dr. Emer.

Dr. Emer started doing penile enhancement treatments about three years ago. Until recently, most procedures involved using hyaluronic acid fillers or fat injections for penile enlargement. But injecting fillers and fat into the penis can be risky business. There are concerns, according to Dr. Emer, that small area, like the penis, fingers and noses, which have less blood circulation, could be at risk for serious complications from injectables, such as impending necrosis or vascular occlusion injuries.

So, Dr. Emer looked into other options — things he could do externally to the penis and scrotum to achieve desired outcomes with less risk. He found lasers and shock therapy are potential options in penile rejuvenation.

“These [modalities] stimulate the blood flow and theoretically can improve erectile dysfunction and, in turn, sexual stamina,” he says.

Penile Enhancement Research

Dr. Emer says he has been contacting companies to conduct trials on the use of lasers and shock therapy on penile enhancement with an overwhelmingly positive response.

“I had been performing hair removal treatments in the genital area with a device called LightPod Neo, made by Aerolase. It’s a microsecond Nd: YAG laser which is virtually painless and requires no direct contract. It’s very quick, high-energy pulsing, so that you can damage the hair follicle without risk to the the skin,” Dr. Emer says. “When I started doing hair removal on the scrotum and around the penis, patients reported the appearance of their scrotum and penis improved. The skin was less wrinkly, it was smoother, and some even reported it wasn’t as veiny.”

Dr. Emer says that wasn’t too much of a surprise, given the LightPod device has been used for facial rejuvenation. Passes with the device cause deep heating of the tissue promoting collagen formation and tightening. It may also be increasing blood supply to the penile area, he says, which would improve sexual function, sensitivity and size.

After using the LightPod Neo on about 10 patients, Dr. Emer says none have reported negative outcomes or complications. All have mentioned that they’re more sensitive in the area since treatment.

“They’ve noticed at least a short-term increase in size, and I have a couple of patients who were unable to get erections easily and now are having them uncontrollably,” Dr. Emer says. “We’ve done similar testing now with another device called Cellutone by BTL Aesthetics which uses shock waves to stimulate blood flow and cause an acute short-term inflammation in the area treated, that, when it repairs itself, heals with improved local function. Not only have patients reported improvement in erectile dysfunction and size, we’ve also noticed improvements using this technology among men who have curved penises and are looking for a more straight appearance.”

Another treatment that is promising is the use of platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, according to Dr. Emer.

“We initially began seeing increased thickness with PRP injections, but then men were not only getting reporting increased erections, better sex, more ejaculations and heightened sensitivity,” he says.

The problem for surgeons who want to start incorporating penile rejuvenation into their practices is the lack of data and information about best practices, according to Dr. Emer. For now, there are a few researchers conducting trials on penile enhancement — Dr. Emer being one.

“There really isn’t much out there. I’m one of the innovators. I hope to be a pioneer in this field. I am trying treatments to meet the demand of my patient population and heighten awareness in this field. I hope that one day this will be mainstream like vaginal rejuvenation has so quickly become. For now, surgeons are going to have to watch what I [and a few others] discover as we try different methods,” he says.

Penis Pumps & Scrotox

Dr. Emer is studying not only individual therapies, but also combinations of devices and injections, as well as how dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons can work with urologists to improve results of treatments. For example, Dr. Emer advocates the use of patient controlled penis pumps at home, immediately after treatments. Dr. Emer says combining what the urologist does with pumps with laser or other injectable treatments further increases blood flow, stimulates new blood vessel growth and could improve overall outcomes.

He is investigating the use of Botox to the genitals.

“Botox decreases sweating, improves wrinkling and may in some cases make the scrotum appear larger by relaxing the muscles in the area,” says Dr. Emer.

Dr. Emer says he uses the term “Scrotox” for this manly treatment, a term which has been used elsewhere, including a Saturday Night Live spoof on rejuvenation of the scrotum.

“It’s not only cosmetic, my marathon runners and cyclists who get inner thigh rubbing and irritation from sweat, benefit from this treatment as it decreases skin burn,” he says.

Now is the time for aesthetic physicians to consider looking into offering these alternative options to male patients, according to Dr. Emer.

“I think it’s a trend that people will start hearing more about, as there is significant demand. Hopefully, companies will start doing research with me and other interested doctors, so we can get data out to the medical community,” Dr. Emer says.

The timing is right. Men are paying more attention to their looks. They are having skin rejuvenation procedures, body contouring, teeth and hair treatments. They are man grooming more than ever, he says.

“I think every [man] is going to want to do this, as commonly as getting their hair cut or their teeth cleaned,” he says. “Men want to feel and look good. They want to have a better sex life and feel confident being naked.”

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Poisonous gas attack by ISIS leads to fears terrorists are mass producing CHEMICAL WEAPONS

ISLAMIC State (ISIS) terrorists are believed to have launched a chemical weapons attack involving MUSTARD GAS in northern Iraq.

The sick assault from the crazed jihadist group was unleashed on Kurdish forces using poisonous gas inside dozens of mortar shells, according to German troops stationed in the area.

Around 60 Kurds were injured, returning with breathing difficulties and burns.

United States officials are investigating the claims and talking to affected troops but suspect it was mustard gas, possibly left over from former dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons stash.

Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said the it was taking the allegations "very seriously" while a senior US government source said: "We have credible information that the agent used in the attack was mustard."

US Ambassador at the United Nations, Samantha Power said, if true, it would further prove that ISIS carries out "systematic attacks on civilians who don't accord to their particularly perverse world view".

It has led to fears ISIS is mass-producing chemical weapons to be used against both troops and civilians.

The attack took place against the Peshmerga Kurdish force on Wednesday near the town of Makhmur in the Kurdistan region.

German military trainers have been backing the Kurdish troops and are understood to have 90 personnel in the area. They reported the incident to the defence ministry in Berlin.

French weapons inspectors have also arrived in the area to take samples.

The Peshmerga General Command said in a statement yesterday: "The terrorists launched 45 120mm mortar shells tipped with chemical heads on Peshmerga positions which led to the injury of a number of Peshmerga forces with burns on different parts of their bodies."

It follows ISIS being accused of a chemical weapons attack in similar reports last month.

Jihadists were said to have used 'chlorine-filled rockets' in a sick onslaught against civilians and rebel fighters in Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria.

There were also reports of ISIS having "industrial" gas masks for the use of their fighters, leading to fears of further chemical attacks.

However, fears have grown over the latest attack as mustard gas is said to be up to 3,000 times more powerful than chlorine.

Mustard gas was initially used by Germany during the First World War where it incapacitated troops and was reported to have left many victims disfigured.

Deaths were often painful and could take three to four weeks.

The United Nations banned its use, along with a number of other chemical weapons, in 1993.

But Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was said to have used chemical weapons in an attack on a suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus in 2014 that killed hundreds of civilians.

There have been numerous reports of chemical weapons use in Syria since then - especially chlorine-filled barrel bombs.

Kurdish forces, which are supporting US-led air strikes with a ground offensive against ISIS, are said to be woefully armed against the well-funded extremist group.

This week's alleged attack came a day before ISIS claimed responsibility for the truck bombing at a Baghdad market which killed 67 in one of the most deadly attacks since the Iraq War.

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