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MS sufferer chose to stop eating rather than suffer

By Cheddar Valley Gazette  |  Posted: October 25, 2012

Monica Cooke

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A former magistrate from Cheddar suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) chose to end her life by starvation.

Monica Cooke, 74, described as a woman of sharp intellect, arrived at her decision to end her life “in a controlled and rational way,” an inquest heard in Taunton on Thursday.

Somerset West Coroner Michael Rose listened to widower David Cooke list a catalogue of his wife’s interests, including her role as a marriage guidance counsellor of 30 years standing, a member of several choirs, busy magistrate and tennis player.

But the MS she had been diagnosed with 20 years ago forced her to gradually withdraw from public activities.

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Robbed of her sense of smell, taste, touch and sensations for eating and toileting, she voiced her wish not to continue life after an infection in April this year. It was later learnt her intent to end her life had stemmed from years earlier.

This attitude turned to resolve on August 30 when she told husband David she was to stop eating and also preparing to stop taking liquids, dependent on medical advice.

Despite intervention by her GP Dr Thomas Davies of Cheddar Medical Centre, Weston Hospice, daughter Miranda and friends she remained resolute and died a week later on September 7 at her home. Coroner Mr Rose said normally a verdict of taking one’s life would be recorded but in these circumstances he was adopting a narrative verdict.

He said: “Anyone here today can’t be moved by what they have heard.”

A statement by Mr Cooke said: “The progress of MS during most of the 21 years of suffering was faced with determination, cheerfulness and resilience. When all the enjoyment had been stripped from her life she still showed courage and good spirit.

“Her eventual decision to end her life by starvation was taken in a controlled, and to her, rational way, balancing the ordeal she knew she would suffer, the pain she knew it would cause her family against her future prospects of minimal independence and negligible dignity.

“Only when the balance tipped to favour the greater pain over a short period against prolonged misery did she exercise her right to take her life.”

Mr Cooke said all those who knew his wife recognised her bravery and offered unconditional support to her decision.

Parallels drawn between locked-in syndrome victim Tony Nicklinson – page 11.

For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 909090 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.

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