Why injured athlete went to Switzerland to die


Better days

A 23-year-old who played rugby for England as a teenager has committed suicide in a Swiss euthanasia clinic after having become paralysed from the chest down in a training accident.

Nuneaton rugby club hooker Daniel James felt his body had become a “prison” and lived in “fear and loathing” of his daily life, his parents said last night, having accompanied him to Switzerland from their home in Sinton Green, near Worcester. He had attempted to kill himself several times since March 2007 when a scrum had collapsed on him and dislocated his neck vertebrae, trapping his spinal cord and rendering him immediately tetraplegic.

West Mercia Police have begun an investigation into his assisted suicide, which took place on September 12. Details were made public yesterday when police published a statement relating to an inquest in progress. Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK, and family or friends who help face up to 14 years in jail. Officers have questioned a man and a women in the case and are preparing to submit a report to the Crown Prosecution Service.

James’ parents, Mark and Julie, said last night that their son had been “an intelligent young man of sound mind” and “not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence“.

He is one of the youngest Britons to have travelled abroad for assisted suicide. Earlier this month, Dignitas, the centre for assisted dying in Zurich, said that 100 Britons have travelled to Switzerland to make use of its more liberal laws. It is thought James attended a clinic in Berne.

Regardless of the law, regardless of crap morality, I don’t justify suicide as a problem-solver. Oftimes, I think it’s a cowardly way out of tough decisions. Janis Joplin or Phil Ochs comes to mind.

But, I’ll be damned if society as a whole can justify taking away my right to make such a decision. And sanction those who help me.

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