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Terminally ill man takes his own life

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07:14 CET+01:00
A 70-year-old Swedish man suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS, has taken his own life after demanding the right to assisted suicide in a letter to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) on Monday.

In his letter to the board, Hammergård had stated that he would take the matter into his own hands if the board did not grant the right to assisted suicide.

But Hammergård elected on Tuesday not to wait for a reply from the board and ended his own life.

"It became too tough for him," said his brother Folke Hammergård to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily.

The 70-year-old had been ill for four years. During this time his condition had progressively deteriorated, but in recent months this decline had accelerated. He was able to end his life in the comfort of his own home according to the wishes he had stated in his will.

Hammergård had previously been in contact with his doctor to ask to be put to sleep for the remainder of his life but had been told that that he would have had to be woken every fourth hour in order to be asked whether he had changed his mind.

"I am in dread of being woken up and lying there without the ability to communicate," he told SvD on Monday.

In his letter Lars-Olov Hammergård had requested that the board allow his doctor to provide him with a lethal dose of medicine which he would then administer to himself in order to die - a so-called doctor-assisted suicide.

The board confirmed on Wednesday that he could have expected to receive a reply next week.

The case mirrored that of a 31-year-old woman who last week wrote a letter to the welfare board demanding the right to die.

The woman was born with a neurological illness that has left her completely paralysed and has since the age of six been reliant on a respirator to breathe.

The 31-year-old's plight has prompted a broad debate over the controversial issue of euthanasia, and a patient's right to decide over their own life-support treatment.

The social minister Göran Hägglund has welcomed the development by the welfare board of new guidelines to address the issue, but underlined his strong conviction that active suicide assistance is always wrong.

"The purpose of healthcare is to cure, relieve and comfort. Any form of active euthanasia is unacceptable," he told the newspaper last week.

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