I have a date to die in Switzerland on 22 February 2019.
I'm married to my beautiful Christine and we have 2 wonderful kids, Jack (16) and Laura (13).
We live in Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula.
Until my forced early retirement last year I was Operations Officer/Officer in Charge at the Mornington Fire Brigade.
My 30 year professional life has been in emergency fire and rescue, initially as a pararescue jumper, helicopter aircrewman & co-pilot for the National Safety Council of Australia in the late 1980's, and then from 1[phone redacted] as a firefighter in the CFA Fire brigade.
The 1997 Thredbo landslide disaster was one of my more memorable rescue jobs for sure.
Outside of work, I have led a very active life, not only jumping out of planes and such, but in sport too.
I played 1st grade amateur footy for Frankston in the early '90s, I have had the good fortune of having surfed great surf breaks throughout Australia and in Hawaii and Bali, and skied the snow resorts around Lake Tahoe in the USA.
I always figured I'd be around to enjoy sport and other activities with my kids well into their adulthood, but fate has determined otherwise and that's why I'm on this site now.
A summary of my story:
Every good aspect of the life I was living has slowly excruciatingly been taken away from me since my diagnosis in july 2014 ... my walking, running, being able to play or kick a footy with my kids, my speech, my career, my independence etc.
When I got my diagnosis, I didn't want to sit back and let the disease take its course. I didn't want my kids or wife Chris to remember me stripped bare: without dignity, without control over my body, a paralyzed shell of the man I once was.
So when I got the green light from Dignitas in Switzerland to 'assist me to die', I thought at least I had an option/exit strategy that was legal, medically sanctioned & supervised , peaceful, and less traumatic for me & my family and friends.
And I thought that this would be easy enough to arrange.
How wrong I was!
Not only did it prove very difficult for me to get the many reports and official documents that Dignitas required, when I delayed my 'assisted dying' day by a couple of months to see my kids 14th and 17th birthdays, Dignitas advised me that the original neurological report I gave them was now too old and I would need to have it updated for them.
When I asked my neurologist for an update, his response was 'sorry mate, but I won't give you anymore documentation that links me to helping you with your intentions in going to Switzerland' , and then when I told Dignitas they said 'get an updated medical report from another neurologist.'
So I asked my GP for a new referral and yes I did get an updated medical report from a different neurologist, but when I sent this to Dignitas, they told me they could not proceed unless I provided them a more detailed report.
Despite my telling them numerous times how difficult it was for me to get them further medical report updates, it seemed to me that Dignitas weren't being very empathetic to the difficulties I was having.
And given my deteriorating physical and mental condition ..... I was surprised and disappointed that Dignitas seemed to have no regard for how damn hard it has been for me to get any reports at all?
This didn't seem right to me, so I reached out to 'Exit International' and Dr Philip Nitschke to see if they could help me.
Dr Philip was surprised,and he said he would speak with Dignitas to try to 'workout a solution', but after he too got the thumbs down from Dignitas, he suggested I go to Life Circle / Eternal Spirit in Basel as they were wonderful helping with 104 year old David Goodall last May.
And so when the good folk at Life Circle said "yes, no problem. We'll sort the neurology report out for you", I was overjoyed with relief. I had my escape plan at last. I could finally get on with planning my last ever Christmas - gulp - with Chris and the kids.
But this is where things really got appalling and disappointing!
When I requested Dignitas refund the deposit money I had already paid them CHF $4000 (=over $5500 Aussie dollars) less 20% for their preliminary preparation work on my case (as per what they state on their initial deposit invoice), ..... they told me that I had 'misunderstood' their refund policy statement and that they would not refund me any part of my initial payment.
Dignitas would be keeping my CHF$4000/AUS$5500 initial deposit payment!
Even when I wrote Dignitas to explain that without them refunding my money my wife Chris would most likely not be able to come Switzerland to be with me, they still said no to my refund request..
I'm so appalled and disappointed, Dignitas have really shown me their 'true colours' which I believe others should know ..... that Dignitas are in fact not the 'human right to choose to die' crusader and the compassionate 'assisted dying' service that they make themselves out to be ....
Instead, people should know that on the contrary I have found Dignitas to be more about taking advantage of the sick and vulnerable in order to make money! SHAMEFUL!
And so here I am. I have a date with Life Circle and at this stage without my refund from Dignitas if I can't raise the funds it looks like I will be going to Switzerland on my own.
I have now reached a stage where my condition has caused severe impairment of my speech, writing, walking, coordinated movement, bladder control, and vision which is obvious to all. And what’s worse and what people are unable to see is that I am also having to endure and suffer relentless fogginess, in-balance, vertigo, nausea, and I feel generally unwell every conscious moment of every day.
I am now mostly housebound, unable to work, it is increasingly difficult for me to function independently and interact in what I consider any meaningful way with my family and friends, AND THIS HAS BECOME UNBEARABLE TO ME.
This is why I looked to Dignitas to help me to check out on my terms.
So now to have Dignitas rob me of any refund - yes I call it theft - it's just so disgraceful and so disappointing! and so I think Dignitas should be called out for it, and this is my attempt to do so.
Since having looked to Life Circle in Basel as an alternative, I would now recommend people look to them before Dignitas anyday.
LIFECIRCLE and all my friends are urging me not to go to Switzerland to die alone, and I would prefer not to go by myself.
Having my wife Chris by my side, holding my hand is my final wish.
SO PLEASE I would be incredibly grateful if you can help this come true.
- Sam Nelson
- James Conquest
- Luke Griffiths
- Rupert Ward
- Karen Rawnsley
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