Fri 13 Jun 2003
A wheelchair-bound cannabis campaigner plans to take her own life with an overdose of paracetamol and champagne after putting her case to legalise the drug at a court case next week.
Biz Ivol, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, is already planning her own funeral and has had a cardboard coffin delivered to her home in Orkney.
She says she desperately wants to end her life because of the crippling pain from the illness which makes her feel like a prisoner in her own body.
However, she has pledged that she will first of all fight her charges of possessing and supplying cannabis, which she claims alleviates her suffering.
Yesterday, her MP said the case highlights the plight of MS sufferers and hopes this will be the last prosecution of its kind in the UK.
Mrs Ivol, 56, from South Ronaldsay, a long-time supporter of legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes, was charged following a police raid at her home in August 2001.
Her trial, which has been postponed several times, is now due to he heard next Wednesday at a sports centre in Kirkwall, which has better wheelchair access than the sheriff court.
She has pleaded not guilty to three charges of possessing cannabis, producing two cannabis plants and being concerned in the supply of the drug to others. The charges relate to cannabis-laced chocolates which she is accused of making and distributing to fellow sufferers across the UK.
Yesterday, as a friend assembled the eco-friendly coffin, which arrived in a flat pack, she said: "Iím going to use it as soon as the court case is over. Iím too tired now to fight on.
"I feel no-one is doing anything to make things better for people with MS and that I no longer have any quality of life. I canít do my garden. I canít knit and I canít sew because my hands are dying. I canít read because my eyes are going - thereís nothing worth staying for anymore on this earth."
She added: "Iím not frightened about what might happen to me. They canít put me in jail because of the condition Iím in. They canít fine me anything because I havenít got any money. And Iím already a prisoner, trapped inside a body thatís full of pain and doesnít work anymore."
Mrs Ivol, who says her pain is like barbed wire being dragged through her spine, began a campaign six years ago for the legalisation of the drug for medicinal use by people with MS and other conditions. It followed an earlier court case, when she was admonished after police found cannabis plants growing at her home.
She said: "Iíve lost count of the number of phone calls Iíve had from people telling me not to give up the fight. But the court case will be my last stand. Iím fed up with fighting now. Itís taken them two years to take me to court. Itís been niggling away at the back of my mind - once itís over, I know I canít go on any longer."
Her neighbour, Bobby McCutcheon, said friends are devastated by Mrs Ivolís decision, but understand her desperation.
"Itís just so sad to see the coffin waiting for her in the house. She really has lost all hope, she has no interest whatsoever in being alive," he said.
Last year, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, relaxed the law on cannabis possession, downgrading the drug from Class B to Class C.
At the time, Mrs Ivol told The Scotsman the decision made the position "as clear as mud" and said she was determined to debate the merits of cannabis use at her trial. Her plight has won backing from Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, and the Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA).
Mr Carmichael said: "This is a tragic case. Biz is just wrung out with a combination of the disease and the campaign. Hopefully, this will be the last of these prosecutions. If it were, it would be quite fitting and give her some sort of comfort and satisfaction. I have told Tony Blair [the Prime Minister] that it is ridiculous that we make a criminal of someone simply trying to get relief from pain which is not available in any other way."
Copyright © 2003 scotsman.com