In addition to spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and using a wheelchair full time, Alison had emphysema, a breathing problem that made her susceptible to chest infections, arthritis, lordosis and kyphoscoliosis (causing the spine to twist out of shape) and osteoporosis. ‘When the pain is at its worst I can’t move or think or speak.’
At a time when doctors didn’t feel she had long to live, Alison developed what she considered a settled wish to die, which lasted some ten years. During the first five years she attempted suicide several times. Yet over time, the support of her friends helped her to feel her life had value, and she dedicated many years to working with children with disabilities in India – as well as to campaigning against a change in the law on assisted suicide and euthanasia in the UK.
‘If euthanasia had been legal then, I would have requested it with no hesitation at all… I would have satisfied all the supposedly “strict criteria” which pro-euthanasia groups want, and which are mandatory in places where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal… Had euthanasia or “assisted suicide” been legal I would have missed the best years of my life. And no one would ever have known that the future held such good times, and that the doctors were wrong in thinking I didn’t have long to live.’