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The Exit Internationalist

March 17, 2024

Leading Scots Solicitor ends life in CH after long illness

Daily Record

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One of Scotland’s leading solicitors has ended his own life in a Swiss clinic after a long illness.

Exit Member, Bruce De Wert, who was suffering from a severe form of Multiple Sclerosis travelled from Scotland to Basel in Switzerland last month.

The 69-year-old undertook the journey on his own having informed his family, including his wife and two adult daughters, of his intentions of an assisted death.

Daughter, Nicole De Wert-Wightman, said he carefully planned all the details himself including his memorial service which took place last week.

Bruce de Wert

The 44-year-old said: “I think he had been contemplating Switzerland for some time.

“Dad always had a back up plan. He was becoming more and more disabled and he was deteriorating quite significantly.

“It was horrible to watch. He did look quite frail where he had been strong and fit and did every sport under the sun.

“Dad had been looking forward to his retirement and travelling round Europe and `I think it came as a shock to realise he would not be able to do that.”

“He had lost his independence and did not want to be a burden. He did not want to go into a home and did not particularly want carers in his home.”

Last week around 60 family, friends and former colleagues attended a moving humanist memorial service at the Parkville Hotel in Blantyre, Lanarkshire.

Tributes were led to the veteran solicitor in a 30 minute long ceremony followed by a buffet meal.

His death comes at a time when there are new moves in the Scottish Parliament to make assisted dying legal, after two previous bills failed.

Nicole, who has two teenage daughters, said it came as a shock when dad told the family of his plans to travel to Switzerland.

She also said her dad did not want to end up in care or his wife forced to look after him.

Nicole added: “Dad was also worried about losing his cognitive abilities as well as his physical capabilities. He was still sharp in some ways but he was deteriorating. He did say to me, ’this isn’t what I want’. It wasn’t particularly what we wanted.

“He decided that if he left it much longer he wouldn’t be able to go to Switzerland.

“Like everything in dad’s life he went out and did his research and then told us the decision he had made and what his plan was. He felt if he didn’t do it now it would be too late.”

Bruce’s body was cremated in Switzerland and the family will be sent the ashes and a death certificate. He had taken a taxi from his home in Bothwell, Lanarkshire on February 21 having said his farewells to his family the previous day.

Bruce, who had been a solicitor for more than 40 years, then got a flight to Frankfurt and a connection to Basel. He was picked up at the airport by representatives of Pegasos, a voluntary assisted dying association, and put up at a hotel overnight before being taken to the clinic the next day.

Bruce had insisted that none of the family members accompany him to Switzerland after informing them of his plans.

He however called his wife on the morning of his death to say his final farewells. Bruce was diagnosed three years ago with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS) after a series of inexplicable dizzy turns and general problems with his balance and his eyes.

Nicole, who lives on the outskirts of Glasgow, said: “We knew something was not right.

“Dad was always so physical he was always so fit and loved cycling and shooting and would turn his hand to any sport. However over the years he was able to do less and less.”

Prior to his death Bruce had run well the respected legal firm Georgesons in Wick, Caithness and retired as senior partner almost three years ago.

Bruce and his wife Collette, 68, then moved to Melrose in the Scottish Borders. But as his condition deteriorated the couple relocated to Bothwell in Lanarkshire to be near their family.

Nicole said her dad was insistent that he went on his own to Switzerland, despite his ill health, in case a family member was prosecuted or implicated in his death

It is understood he was provided with help by the airlines getting on and off the flights having booked the trip himself.

Nicole added:”He thought it would be hard for us grieving without having to deal with any legal issues.”

In the two weeks prior to his departure Nicole and the other family members took him out for his meals including a Curry, Thai and a KFC and in the last few days they shared a lifetime of memories looking through family photo albums.

Nicole and the other family members spent time with Bruce on February 20, the day before his departure to Switzerland, giving him a last hug.

They then left Mum and dad to be on their own on the morning he departed.

Nicole added: “We did our best to spend as much time with our dad as possible. He always liked eating out.

“However he did not have a lot of energy so we also had a lot of takeins instead”

Bruce passed away on the morning of February 22 and phoned his wife beforehand.

His wife was informed that day by the Swiss clinic of his death. Nicole does not have any details of how her dad died but is pleased he was able to end his life with dignity and on his own terms.

Bruce had left details of his life for the celebrant to read out at his memorial service and music that he wanted played

Staff from his former firm in Wick travelled for the service. It was also recorded for those who could not attend

Nicole added: “Everyone at the memorial remembered what a wonderful person he was and that he was larger than life.”

Originally from Oxford, Bruce studied at Strathclyde University and worked in Glasgow and Edinburgh before moving to Wick in 1984 as a court solicitor.

His firm specialised in wills and executries and also acted as estate agents.

He was a pioneer of new technology and was quick to see the potential of giving Georgesons’ an online presence when the internet was relatively new.

He also enjoyed running, swimming, squash, tennis, windsurfing, boating and flying.

In an interview in 2021, announcing his decision to step down from Georgesons, Bruce spoke openly about his PPMS diagnosis and the impact it was having on his mobility.

“Life owes you nothing,” he said at the time. “I’ve had a wonderful life, and you know what? It’s going to carry on for a while.

“Okay, inevitably I will be in a wheelchair. Inevitably I won’t be able to drive. I can’t do anything about it. But you accept these things and you get on with it, because life is like that.”

A bill by Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur to make assisted dying legal in Scotland could become law by next year.

He expects it to be introduced to Parliament around Easter and has claimed there’s enough support to get the law passed in 2025.

To qualify patients will have to be diagnosed as terminally ill, and deemed mentally fit to understand both their condition and the consequences of their choices.

Two doctors are legally required to agree before anyone can access the law.

Anyone applying for assisted dying must be resident in Scotland for 12 months.

There’s a two-week cooling-off period between the request being made and the patient allowed to take their life.

Medication to end life must “be self-administered”.

Doctors will be forbidden from suggesting patients access the law. Requests can only come from terminally-ill patients.

At present the law in Scotland prevents people from asking for medical help to end their lives.

Bills by LibDem MSP Jeremy Purvis in 2005 and Margo MacDonald in 2015 failed to get the necessary votes.

If the bill is made law Scotland it will be the first part of the UK to make assisted dying legal.

There have also been calls south of the Border for an assisted dying law

One supporter is Esther Rantzen, who has stage four lung cancer and has joined the Dignitas assisted dying clinic in Switzerland.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who is also in favour of legislation, has promised to hold a vote if Labour win the next election.

Editor’s Note – Exit director, Professor Sean Davison, was with Bruce de Wert at his death. Sean said that Bruce’s death would have been less traumatic had his family chosen to accompany him to Switzerland.

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