A TERMINALLY ill former Musselburgh teacher has died at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland amid calls for a change in the law on assisted dying in the UK.

Richard Selley, 65, a former head of Loretto Junior School, had battled Motor Neurone Disease (MND) for four years.

He used his final months to call for a change in the law to allow assisted dying as an option for terminally ill, mentally competent Brits.

His wife Elaine, 57, released a statement following his death last Friday: “I am writing this post from my hotel room in Zurich. Richard died very peacefully at lunchtime today. His brother Peter and I were at his side. At Dignitas, in a clinically clean room, well-appointed but devoid of any personal touches, we could feel all the love that has been shared with us over the years. The end was dignified and calm, exactly as Richard wanted. He had taken control of his own destiny.

“The care provided by the Dignitas staff was exceptional. There are so many safeguards in place to ensure that people are not in any way being coerced to end their lives. I will continue to fight for the human right of those who are terminally ill to choose how and when they die in Scotland.

“The experience of travelling to Switzerland will never leave me. It was traumatic. No one should ever need to make that journey from a supposedly humane and compassionate country like Scotland.”

Last Friday morning, a final video of Richard, from Glenalmond, near Perth, was released by Dignity in Dying in which he urged MSPs to support an Assisted Dying Bill so that other terminally ill people could have the option to die on their own terms at home, rather than endure the suffering he experienced.

He said: “Since my diagnosis with MND four years ago I have lost the ability to walk, talk and swallow. I have also lost most of the power in my arms.

“Despite these losses, I have tried very hard to remain positive and my palliative care has been outstanding. However, as I enter the final stage of my journey I don’t wish to suffer for much longer so I am seeking an assisted death with Dignitas. Despite what some people think, Dignitas do not let people simply fly to Zurich, knock on their door and ask to die.

“I have already had to compose letters, write a life story and obtain medical records that prove that I am terminally ill.

“This has been stressful particularly as my GP was advised to refuse my request for an up-to-date medical report. Having assisted dying available in Switzerland is welcome but it will cost me about £10,000. I am fortunate that I can afford this but most people cannot. Having to be able to fly means that I am choosing to die earlier than I would prefer.

“If an assisted death was possible in Scotland I would be able to die at a time of my choosing at home. I hope that MSPs support an assisted dying Bill in the future.”

Dr Graham Hawley, Loretto's headmaster, said: "Loretto mourns the death of Richard Selley who was a fine schoolmaster and who gave the best years of his life to the school from 1979 to 2009.

"He held a number of senior positions including head of business studies, master in charge of cricket, housemaster, vicegerent (senior deputy head) as well as head of junior school. He was also acting headmaster for over a year between appointments of headmaster.
"He was always at his happiest when interacting with children – whether in the classroom or on the games field.

"Very many former pupils had been in touch with Richard before his death to express their gratitude for the impact he had on their education and their lives. He bore his illness with great fortitude and he never lost his sense of humour. Selfless to the end he used his suffering to campaign for the benefit of others."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We empathise with Mr Selley and his loved ones and with anyone suffering from long-term, debilitating illness and pain.

“The Scottish Government respects the will of the Scottish Parliament on assisted dying, and is committed to ensuring that everyone has dignity and respect at the end of their life.

“Scotland is widely recognised for providing high-quality care in this area and we support greater public and personal discussion of bereavement, death, dying and care at the end of life.”

The Stage 1 debate of the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill was held in the Scottish Parliament in May 2015. Ultimately, the Scottish Parliament decided not to proceed with this legislation. Its Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End of Life Care, which was published in December 2015, set out a range of commitments to improve palliative and end of life care educational framework for those working in health and social care.