Assisted dying campaigner George Martin dies after refusing food

George Martin and granddaughter Allie Lewis Mr Martin's family supported his decision

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A terminally ill man who campaigned for assisted dying to be legalised has died after refusing to eat food.

George Martin, 86, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer three weeks ago after being ill for two years.

Campaign group Dignity in Dying said Mr Martin, from Nottinghamshire, should not have had to stop eating to have control over the end of his life.

But campaign group Care Not Killing said the current law existed to protect vulnerable people.

'Never forget me'

Assisting a suicide is illegal and the issue is highly controversial.

Mr Martin, who lived in Westwood, near Selston, had been a member of Dignity in Dying since 1995.

The group advocates assisted dying for terminally ill people. This used to be known as voluntary euthanasia.

Mr Martin's daughter, Sara Martin, said her mother died in 1992 of a brain tumour and her "traumatic" illness prompted her father's interest in voluntary euthanasia.

BBC East Midlands Today reporter Jo Healey, who interviewed Mr Martin last week, said his last words to her were: "Never forget me till there's a change in the law."

Ms Martin said her father, a retired accountant, stopped eating to "hasten his death in the absence of any law change" and drank only tea and water.

"My father believed very strongly that he should be able to select the time and place of his death so that he would not suffer or be a burden to others," she said.

Assisted dying and assisted suicide

  • The term assisted dying is usually applied to people who are already dying and want to hasten their death. It used to be known as voluntary euthanasia.
  • Assisted suicide is applied to people who are not dying.
  • Committing or attempting to commit suicide is not a criminal offence.
  • A person commits an offence under the Suicide Act 1961 if he or she does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, and that act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempted act of suicide.
  • The offence of encouraging or assisting suicide carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

Sources: Crown Prosecution Service and Dignity in Dying

'Courageous campaigner'

He died on Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for Dignity in Dying said: "George Martin was a courageous campaigner, and we are saddened to hear of his death.

"As a result of his decision to speak out, more people are talking about whether it's right that terminally ill people are forced into taking desperate decisions at the end of their lives in order to avoid a potentially bad death, or whether there is a better way."

Care Not Killing spokesperson Alistair Thompson said: "The Royal College of Psychiatry in their evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions was very clear: if someone is suicidal, they need help and support, not the keys to the drugs cabinet.

"Their view is mirrored by every major medical organisation including the BMA and every major disability rights organisation.

"The current law exists to protect the vulnerable, and to protect those who might feel because of their condition or disability that they are a financial or a care burden."

Assisted dying is legal in four European countries - Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg - and three American states - Oregon, Washington and Montana.

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