A SCOT with crippling multiple sclerosis who planned to end his life at a Swiss suicide clinic has revealed he is applying to undergo an experimental stem cell treatment abroad in a last ditch attempt to reverse his symptoms and prolong his life.
Colin Campbell, from Inverness, said he would postpone his appointment at the LifeCircle clinic in Basel, where he had expected to end his life on June 15, if he was accepted for the pioneering therapy by medical chain, Swiss Medica. A 12-day course at its facility in Belgrade, Serbia costs around £15-16,000 and floods patients with up to 300 million stem cells which have been shown to restore myelin – a fatty coating around nerve cells destroyed by multiple sclerosis – leading to improved brain function and mobility.
Several clinical trials worldwide are exploring stem cell therapy as a means of “pausing” the degeneration associated with MS, but it cannot cure the condition and the treatment is not available on the NHS or privately in Britain.
Former IT consultant Mr Campbell praised his “very kind” landlord, Robert More, for persuading him to try out the procedure.
Mr Campbell, 56, said: “Robert said ‘I don’t want you to die – you can go abroad and try this. If it works, great; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There’s nothing to lose’. So I would say I’ve moved into a new territory where I’m a ‘deferred’ suicide, but not a cancelled suicide.
“I will hopefully get onto the treatment programme, but if not then June 15 goes ahead as planned. So I’m in a limbo situation. I’m still holding on to June 15 because I don’t want to knock that back and find that the time passes and I’m thinking ‘why didn’t I get out when I could?’. I’ve got no desire to spend another winter in the UK with MS – death would be preferable for me.
“That’s the thing about not having [voluntary assisted suicide] in Scotland though. If I could do it here I wouldn’t have to be too concerned about a date because it would be available to me whenever I choose, whereas when you have the Travel to Switzerland and you’ve got a progressive illness you probably don’t want to plan it too far ahead because you might not be up to the journey.”
He added that MS patients were also let down because doctors did not routinely highlight the options for treatment outside the NHS.
He said: “It would be nice after a diagnosis if a neurologist would go through your options – if they said ‘look, you can’t get this on the NHS at the moment, but you can get this abroad’, but they don’t even have this discussion with you. You get nothing, and that’s the experience I hear from talking to other MS sufferers.”MS
Mr Campbell was a keen footballer, swimmer and tennis player before being diagnosed aged 34 with primary progressive MS, a rarer form of the disease which results in a steady deterioration without any periods of remission. He now relies on walking aids to move around his first-floor flat and a wheelchair outdoors.
He revealed his plan to end his life in Switzerland to the Herald’s sister paper, the Sunday Herald, in April as part of a campaign calling on MSPs to bring a new Bill on assisted dying to Holyrood. The proposed Bill would bring Scotland into line with Canada and parts of the US and Australia by allowing terminally ill people with less than six months to live the right to be prescribed a lethal dose of medication which they can then self-administer.
Mr More, who has rented a flat to Mr Campbell for three years, said: “He’s a decent man and, quite frankly, he was depressed with his condition and all he was getting was tea and sympathy. There’s nobody doing anything to really help him. Nobody is giving him options and in those situations there are always options.
“There was a 36-year-old woman that was at this [Swiss Medica] clinic and she went in in a wheelchair and when she came out her only complaint was she got tired after long walks. Stem cell therapy doesn’t offer a cure, but it might make his life better and that’s what I want for the man.”
Mr More said he felt compelled to help after his own experience 32 years ago when his youngest daughter was diagnosed with spina bifida and the family were told she would never walk again.
He said: “If someone tells me that I try to do something about it so I took her to the Peto Institute in Budapest. I took her there for four years running and when she came out she could walk. So just because people tell you it’s a death sentence, I don’t believe it. She’s alive and well – the Hungarians did a magnificent job with her.”
Mr Campbell said he had also been boosted after being contacted by a fellow MDS sufferer, Rona Tynan, who encouraged him to test out a mobility scooter after seeing reports about his plans to end his life.
He said: “This has given me some kind of optimism which I definitely didn’t have – so I owe that to Rona.”
Mrs Tynan said: “What alarmed me about Colin was, I felt he was more able than myself.”
Source : HeraldScotland