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Former palliative care nurse dies at euthanasia clinic


Gill Pharaoh, a former palliative care nurse who was aged 75 and reported to be in good health, has ended her life at a Swiss euthanasia clinic after describing getting old as “awful”.

Ms Pharaoh, who had written books on caring for older patients, died on 21 July at the Lifecircle clinic in Basal with her partner of 25 years by her side.

“I do not want people to remember me as a sort of old lady hobbling up the road with a trolley”

Gill Pharaoh

Her decision to end her life was based on a desire not to grow old, she told the Sunday Times in an interview before her death.

The mother-of-two said her experience as a nurse had revealed the “awful” reality of old age and that she did not want to become a burden to her children or be “blocking beds”.

She said: “I have looked after people who are old, on and off, all my life. I have always said: ‘I am not getting old I do not think old age is fun’.

“I know that I have gone just over the hill now. It is not going to start getting better,” she told the newspaper. “I would rather go out when I am not quite at a peak.”


Gill Pharaoh

She added: “I do not want people to remember me as a sort of old lady hobbling up the road with a trolley.”

Despite not experiencing any serious health problems, Ms Pharaoh said a severe bout of shingles in 2010 had “changed” everything and had led her to feel her health was beginning to deteriorate.

She said her children knew of her plan and admitted that they struggled to accept her decision.

“My daughter is a nurse and she said: ‘Intellectually, I know where you are coming from but emotionally I am finding it really hard,’ and I know she is,” Ms Pharaoh told the Sunday Times.

Ms Pharaoh promoted her two books – How to Manage Family Illness at Home and Careers in Caring – from a website, which also includes a blog she wrote last month titled My Last Word.


Readers' comments (21)

  • I suppose its each individuas choice about how long they live but I'm surprised that the clinic can performeeuthanasia on a healthy person

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  • very sad but i can see where she is coming from. very brave.

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  • I have been saying for some months now that I don't want to get old, after nursing elderly people and palliative patients in their own homes. I wonder if we as nurses knew there was a better level of support out there that we would feel differently about getting old? Gill is a very brave and dignified woman, but 75 does seem too young, especially when she was in good health. But when is it the right age to die?

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  • i find this incredibly selfish. It isn't just a number of years that make you infirm, it is also a combination of sub-optimal diet and exercise. To leave her daughter/s and grandchildren like this is, i think, dreadful.

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  • My Mother has recently been removed from her house to a care home due to the fact that she has severe dementia and can no longer care for herself, despite every effort being made to enable her to remain at home.

    She is aware enough of for this to appear a living hell for her, and she now longs for death.

    I totally support the brave decision made by someone who has actually expressed her love for her family by her actions. Having watched the deterioration in my own mother I have every intention of that one way trip to Switzerland myself...........

    It's no one's right to be judgemental so please don't be.........

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  • Ruth, I hear what you say, but have you yourself looked after palliative patients day in, day out like Gill?
    It's her choice, like it should be everyone's choice when to go. She did not want to be a burden. How often do you hear that from the senior generation?
    Unfortunately, patient's are still suffering here when end of life because we are too cautious.
    RIP Gill and condolences to family and friends.

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  • Although I can see where she's coming from, I don't feel at all comfortable with it. Her poor husband must have been going through hell the night before when they were having a lovely dinner together in a beautiful place. Surely he must have thought why now, really.

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  • A difficult decision, one which takes a balanced mind to reach.
    Question: would anyone prefer to be admitted to a residential nursing home after a diagnosis of dementia, thus loosing everything that made you you. Wearing big nappy's to help with incontinence, maybe eating your own faeces, sometimes being washed and cared for by teenagers on minimum wage. sitting in a lounge,confused and at times longing to go home. depressed,and slowly turning into an adult child.Pressure sores, falls and catheters. Helpless and deprived of liberty.all the way down to a slow death.
    Or, take a drink and fall to sleep-never to wake up?
    Shame people have to go to Switzerland to
    bow out with dignity.

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  • Totally agree with Paul. Quality of life is so much more important than longevity. She was in the fortunate position to be able to make an informed choice. She wanted to go and her husband loved her enough to let her go.
    Very courageous.

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  • But Paul she did not have dementia, she was well and healthy. For her to not want to be a burden is a sad reason to take that decision I feel, and perhaps would not be echoed by those she thought she would be burdening. I don't feel comfortable with it.

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