Terminally ill Lars-Olof Hammergård, who took his own life on Tuesday.

Man Campaigning for Assisted Suicide Ends his Life

Updated 18:02pm

A 70 year old Swedish man, terminally ill with ALS, the commonest type of motor neurone disease, has ended his own life just days after sending a letter to the National Board of Health and Welfare asking to be given the right to a doctor-assisted suicide.

Lars-Olov Hammergård , who wanted to get a prescription from his doctor for pills that would kill him (assisted suicide) had sent his letter after reading about a 31 year old Swedish woman who recently wrote to the Board asking for doctors to be allowed to turn off her respirator so she could end her life in dignity. (Euthanasia.) The woman, who suffers from a degenerative neurological disease, has been on a respirator since the age of 6. A decision is expected later in the Spring.

Lars-Olov Hammergård had told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper this week that he wanted a quick response from the board as his condition was deteriorating rapidly and he would do something about it himself unless he was granted his wish.

On Wednesday Mr Hammergård's brother told the SVD newspaper that the 70 year old had ended his life at home on Tuesday as he wished, surrounded by his family.

According to newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the man began campaigning to give patients the right to assisted suicide after he received his own diagnosis four years ago. He had always been very clear in his desire to die when he couldn’t take care of himself any longer.

The regulations governing assisted suicide and euthanasia have changed over the years in Sweden. In 1979  journalist Berit Hedeby went to prison for a year for helping a man with MS to die. The doctor involved had his license revoked and he committed suicide. Presently doctors are forbidden to assist in a patients suicide and recently in a high profile case, a doctor at a maternity unit at the Astrid Lindgren hospital in Stockholm is facing criminal manslaughter proceedings. 

"Active" euthanasia is not allowed in Sweden but "passive" euthanasia is permitted where a patient in his right mind asks his doctor to stop life extending treatment.

Göran Hägglund, Sweden’s Minister for Health and Social Affairs, commented that “every form of active euthanasia is unacceptable,” but he welcomes the Board’s investigation into the issue.

In the European Union, euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide is legal under certain circumstances in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Berit Hasselmark, Vice Chair of the Swedish branch of the pro-euthanasia and assisted suicide organisation, Right to Die With Dignity told Radio Sweden that Sweden should at least allow assisted suicide and recognize living wills. 

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