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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Julie Casson’s new memoir, Die Smiling, details her husband Nigel’s ten-year battle with motor neurone disease and his decision to end his life at Dignitas.

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Die Smiling

Julie Casson’s memoir, Die Smiling, is an unforgettable read and one which overflows with love and resolve as it takes readers back to Nigel’s motor neurone diagnosis in 2007. Julie shares how the family came together to overhaul their lives to cope with the devastating impact of the disease, and how Nigel accepted the relentless plundering of his body with pragmatism and inspiring good humour.

Told with wit and candour, this rare and intimate account follows Nigel’s extraordinary journey from diagnosis, to Dignitas in Zurich, and his ultimate triumph over suffering and disease.

A successful businessman and father of three, Nigel battled the degenerative disease with boundless courage and gritty good humour, until, faced with the unimaginable torture of a slow, living death. With his spirit crushed, and his body a tomb, he decided to take control and go to Dignitas to end his life, while he was still able to die smiling.

In Die Smiling, Julie recounts how the family prepared for this enormous logistical, and emotional, challenge, from the gruelling Dignitas process to the eight-hundred-mile road trip to Switzerland. By denying the disease its victory and choosing his own cure, Nigel died happily, in the arms of his wife and children.

In recounting this unimaginable situation and using blogs she wrote from 2011 to inform her memoir, readers can’t help being awestruck by the bravery of Julie and her family. Thanks to their determination to navigate the minefield of legalities required to ensure that rather than be entombed in his own body and suffer a slow and agonising death, Nigel was able to take control, and die smiling.

This is a thought-provoking and deeply moving book, where love, family, dignity and choice conquer adversity. It sits in the heart of the debate on assisted dying and raises questions about the right to put an end to suffering and the right to choose how life should end.

With British membership of Dignitas increasing by 80% in the last decade (50 Britons per year were assisted with dying in Switzerland pre-pandemic)the desire for this service is only gaining momentum. A committed supporter of changing the law around assisted dying, bravo to Julie Casson for sharing her family’s moving and deeply personal story, and for introducing Nigel – his inimitable character and spirit – to all those who sadly didn’t have the opportunity to meet him.

Julie Casson lays bare the devastating human impact of the UK’s ban on assisted dying, capturing precisely why true choice at the end of life is a movement whose time has come for this country. By turns uplifting and heart-wrenching, Die Smiling is a searingly honest tale of love, life and death, and a powerful contribution to a historic debate.

-Sarah Wootton, Dignity in Dying CEO

Julie Casson

Debut author Julie Casson is a widow, mother to a son and two daughters, a proud grandma and a devoted great grandma. She lives in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, with her beloved miniature schnauzer: Bodger.

Julie Casson on The Table Read Magazine
Julie Casson

Julie spent twenty-three years working at Scarborough’s Further Education College. Starting out as a teacher, her career evolved into management. She holds an MA in management from the University of York.

Her career ended unexpectedly in 2007, when her husband, Nigel, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Julie became Nigel’s primary carer. Nigel’s positivity, irrepressible humour and pragmatism throughout his illness, and his determination to take control of his death, is the inspiration behind this memoir.

In 2011, she started a blog, posting light-hearted commentary on every-day existence and specific accounts of Nigel’s experience, which she later developed into this book. She completed a creative writing course at the University of York.

Julie is a supporter of the Motor Neurone Disease Association and member of Dignity in Dying. It is her greatest wish that Nigel’s story contributes to changing the law on assisted dying in the UK.

She is currently working on her second book.

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