It was widely reported last week that a 68 year old man travelled from his home in Chester to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end his life following his suffering with a rare form of cancer.

Much of the reporting centred on the fact that Mr Cole, a former town councillor from North Wales, was campaigning for the the law to be changed on assisted suicide which is still illegal in this country.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused through exposure to asbestos fibres. Asbestos was considered a ‘wonder material’ for decades because of its fire retardant properties and was used in a variety of products such as ironing boards, vehicle brake pads and lagging on pipes.

Due to their minute size the asbestos fibres can lodge themselves in a person’s lungs for 20-40 years before any symptoms of the cancer present themselves. There is no cure and treatment is generally palliative.

This is a man-made cancer and could have been avoided had employers taken steps to provide safe working practices, personal protective equipment and have a greater regard of the dangers of asbestos which have been well documented and known since the 1930s.

Assisted suicide is an extremely contentious and emotive topic which polarises debate. However what makes Mr Cole’s situation even more saddening is the fact that mesothelioma is an avoidable condition. Having witnessed the suffering of a number of my clients from mesothelioma I can understand why those diagnosed might come to the decision Mr Cole did on assisted suicide.