Scarborough man ends his life at Dignitas after 10-year battle

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An ‘inspirational’ Scarborough man made an emotional final farewell to friends and family after suffering with motor neurone disease for 10 years.

David Nigel Casson, 62, known as Nigel, posted his final heartbreaking message on Facebook telling his friends he was ending his life at Dignitas in 
Zurich, Switzerland. He wrote: “It gives me great joy today to announce that I have found the one and only cure for motor neurone disease – but it is with great sadness that it means I have had to go to Dignitas in Zurich to end my life.”

Hundreds of friends shared their support and paid tribute to his life which was filled with “exceptional good humour.”

In the tear-jerking post, Nigel added: “My decision was arrived at because I wanted to take back control of my life and take the victory of killing me away from this disease. I wanted to die while I am happy and can still smile and not be controlled by this wicked disease any longer. I wanted to die with dignity instead of being tortured.

“Some people may think it’s the easy way out but believe me it’s not easy to leave your loving family and friends.”

Nigel was diagnosed with the degenerating disease in 2007 which deteriorates the victims’ muscles until they can’t move, speak, eat or breathe. About 50% of people diagnosed die within 14 month and very few survive beyond five years.

In 2007 Nigel was given three to five years to live.

Last week, he travelled to Dignitas - a Swiss nonprofit members’ society providing assisted/accompanied suicide to those who suffer from terminal illness and/or severe physical and/or mental illnesses.

His loving wife of almost 40 years, Julie Casson said: “Nigel was a very realistic man and did not moan about his fate. He decided to keep a positive attitude throughout. He embraced what was to be the rest of his life with exceptional good humour, maintaining good spirits to the end.

“He joked and laughed every day. He was an inspiration to others and helped the rest of us cope with the heart-breaking effects of motor neurone disease.”

She added: “We are a close family and are grief-stricken by the loss of Nigel. Nigel was a supporter of the Dignity in Dying campaign and we respect his right to self-determination.”

The pair met in 1975 in Cleckheaton where they both lived. Nigel was Julie’s best friend’s older brother and three years after they met they married. They went on to have three children and four grandchildren.

Nigel didn’t want to be beaten by the horrible disease and didn’t want to take his spirit like it had robbed him of his physical strength.

In August last year Nigel made the impossible decision to end his life at Dignitas - believed to be the first in the Scarborough area.

Julie said: “He loved to smile, to laugh and be happy. He was not prepared to let motor neurone disease stop that.”

Nigel and Julie moved to Scarborough in 1984. Nigel was a member at South Cliff Golf Club and a strong supporter of the Rugby Club.

The grandfather was a respected member amongst the business community and worked hard to successfully develop DNC Scaffolding Ltd and Roofcare (Northern) Ltd with his business partner Glyn Simpson.

In his final message, Nigel thanked his Facebook friends for their “tremendous” support and friendship.

Almost 400 “wonderful” messages from friends, family and acquaintances flooded. But he didn’t get the opportunity to read their reply.

One friend posted: “Oh, Nigel. What an amazing human being you were! You’re free now! I’m sure going to miss you though!”

While another posted: “Cass, brave man, very brave decision, may you suffer no more.”

His former carer Jamie Cornish said his death was “heartbreaking”.

“It was always about other people with him,” said Jamie.

“Even on his worst days he was smiling and thinking of others.”

A supporter of the Dying with Dignity campaign, in his final message Nigel said: “It is such a shame that the laws of this country prevent me from doing this in my own home.”

His positivity and determination were a beacon of light to others and he never lost his sense of humour.

Nigel finished his final farewell with: “I’ve been “dying” to post this! Ha ha ha ha ha!! Thank you and goodbye.”