The family of a 54-year old former BBYO president this week said he ended his life “with dignity and control” in a Swiss clinic as an inoperable spinal tumour threatened to leave him paralysed at any second.
Jeffrey Spector, who enjoyed a final meal surrounded by friends and family before dying on Friday, spoke openly of it being “the least worst option” ahead of his death, reigniting the euthanasia debate in the Jewish community.
The Lancashire businessman acknowledged that there are those who said he should have accepted his fate as a quadriplegic, saying: “Criticise me but do not judge me. Never judge anyone unless you have worn their shoes.”
Spector was BBYO UK & Ireland’s 39th National President serving from 1978/79, having previously been the District’s World Jewry Officer.
Phil Peters, the chairman of the BBYO Youth Commission, said: “Jeff devoted most of his teenage years to the movement. Everyone was saddened by the news of his untimely death and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, daughters, family and friends.”
The St Annes Hebrew Congregation member chose to travel to the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Zurich despite not having a terminal illness. However, he made the decision and stuck with knowing the inoperable tumour growing on his spine would leave him paralysed from the neck down at any moment.
“Jeffrey ended his life with dignity and control which was his overwhelming desire,” the family said in a statement. “As a family we supported and respected his decision 100 per cent.”
In a moving final interview, he said: “I wanted control of the final stages of my life. I was a fit and healthy person and my life has been turned upside down. What started as back ache in 2008 soon developed into an illness which led me to having to make this most awful decision.”
Almost 300 Britons have to-date ended their lives in Swiss clinics, and right-to-die campaigners have supporters calls for reform to UK law.
Last year Lord Falconer proposed a bill to allow the assisted death of someone has less than six months to live. It reached the committee stage in the House of Lords but opponents delayed its progress before parliament was dissolved.