Friends at the End is a Scottish Charity promoting knowledge and understanding of end of life choices and campaigning to change the law to allow Assisted Dying.
We work closely with MSPs and stakeholders, on our primary aim, which is to support the development of legislation in the Scottish Parliament, to allow Assisted Dying in Scotland.
We also provide care, compassion and companionship to those facing the end of their lives.
Friends at the End was formed in 2000 by a group of people led by Dr Libby Wilson who, until her death in March 2016, was Convenor of the organisation.
Chair – Emma Cooper
Emma is the convenor of the FATE Board of Trustees. She is an experienced third sector CEO and has particular expertise in organisational change, fundraising and policy. She now works for the Scottish Land Commission and is a non-executive director of the Scottish Health Council.
Emma joined FATE following her experience of providing palliative care for a relative. She believes that we are all entitled to a good death, as far as possible. Emma is fully supportive of a change in the law to allow assisted dying in Scotland.
Lord Jeremy Purvis is a Patron of Friends at the End.
“The opportunity for people who are coming to the end of their life to have a greater choice in the circumstances of their passing is an issue of our age. Friends at the End helps to maintain a public debate on this issue in Scotland and provides information and awareness necessary for this debate to be as informed as possible. Since I first presented a Bill in the Scottish Parliament, the first since devolution, in 2004 to change the law to allow choice at the end of life, the public debate has moved on considerably. Regrettably however the law remains un-amended and therefore the campaign must continue. Friends at the End will assist this process and it is one major reason why I am very pleased to be a major supporter of their work.”
Melanie Reid worked for the Scotsman, Sunday Mail and the Herald before becoming a columnist for The Times. In 2010 she fell off her horse and broke her neck, becoming tetraplegic. She charts her life in the award-winning Spinal Column in The Times’ Saturday magazine and in 2019 her book The World I Fell Out Of was published.
Dr Mary Stewart graduated from Cornell University in 1949 and was part of a small close knit group involved in the rapid development of veterinary medicine at the University of Glasgow under the leadership of Sir William Weipers in the 1950s.
She was ahead of her time with her focus on the philosophical basis to ethics, animal welfare, the importance of the companion animal/human bond and the handling of bereavement.
Mary was also very supportive of the students at the Vet School and the first “Rodeo” was given its name by Mary Stewart, when, fresh from the USA, she decided that the school should have an exciting event. It continues today on an annual basis, and is a family day run by students to raise awareness of animal welfare issues, educate and raise money for charity.
A building at the University of Glasgow Garscube campus, opened in 2016, has been named the Mary Stewart Building. In 2022, Mary was awarded the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Queen’s Medal, the highest honour that the RCVS can bestow upon an individual veterinary surgeon, in recognition of a highly distinguished career with sustained and outstanding achievements throughout.
Ben Colburn is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, where he has worked since 2010, including as Head of Philosophy from 2017 to 2020. Before arriving in Glasgow he studied and worked in Cambridge, receiving his PhD in 2008, and holding a research fellowship at Corpus Christi College from 2008 to 2010.
His main research interests are in political philosophy and ethics, with a particular interest in the nature and value of individual autonomy. He draws inspiration from this in his work on assisted dying legislation, as well as from his experience of collaborating with policymakers and practitioners in end of life care more generally.
The Board of Trustees
Friends at the End is led by a council of nine volunteers, who bring a mix of experience and insight into end of life choices and includes:
Dr Julie Lang
Julie was a physiotherapist in the NHS for forty years, as a service manager and as a specialist clinician, working in womens’ health, and with men, women and children who had pelvic floor dysfunction. When the physiotherapy profession achieved degree status, she upgraded her original diploma to a degree at the University of East London, and in 2004, completed an MSc in her clinical specialty at Glasgow Caledonian University.
She retired in 2012 and went back to university to study English literature at the University of Glasgow. In 2017 she completed her master’s degree. She achieved her PhD in 2022. Part of her doctoral thesis is a personal memoir; the thesis title is, ‘Representing Death: how contemporary memoirists depict dying, death, suicide and bereavement’.
Julie joined the Council of Friends at the End in 2017 and now serves as secretary. She is a member of the group, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.
Dr Charles Warlow
Charles moved to Scotland from Oxford in 1987 to take up the chair of medical neurology at the University of Edinburgh. As well as clinical work and teaching, he did research mostly into stroke prevention, with some excursions into motor neurone disease and functional neurological disorders.
He has been President of the Association of British Neurologists and editor of Practical Neurology, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Since retiring in 2008 he has sailed around Great Britain three times and written a book about it. Charles is now busy with other writing projects, as well as photography and going to art classes.
He has been a strong supporter of assisted dying for as long as he can remember.
Alison graduated as a mental health nurse in 1986, she has a particular interest and experience in medical law and ethics and completed an M.Phil. in law and ethics in medicine at Glasgow University in 2004.
Her career has been based in the public sector and her focus has been on promoting the human rights of people in relation to mental health care, treatment and support.
Alison has a particular interest in ensuring that high-quality person-centred palliative care is a right for everyone in Scotland, from both a professional and personal perspective.
Dr Gordon Wyllie
Gordon has been honourary legal counsel to Friends at the End, and a member since the organisation’s beginning. A former convenor, he now serves as treasurer. As a senior charity and trust lawyer and a former partner at Biggart Baillie and Bird Semple. Dr Wyllie served as a member of the European Commission’s Group of Experts in International Succession Law and chaired the Law Society of Scotland’s Trust and Succession Committee until 2021.
Gordon’s many voluntary positions have included serving as Deacon Convener of the Trades of Edinburgh, a Trustee of Mediaeval Glasgow Trust, and a member of the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on End of Life Choices. Currently in Edinburgh he chairs the West End Community Council.
Peter has been part of the campaign to legalise assisted dying in Scotland since 2008. At that time, he was working with Margo MacDonald MSP in the Scottish Parliament. Whilst assisting her with the preparation of legislation he first met Dr Libby Wilson, founder of Friends at the End. He was immediately impressed by Libby’s passion and commitment in regard to changing the law to allow competent adults, living in Scotland access if they needed it to an assisted death. During this time, he heard and read so many first-hand accounts of the unnecessary suffering that it convinced him of the need for a change was urgently needed.
Peter has been a full member of FATE since 2014, serving on its Board since 2016 as an ordinary member and until recently, had the honour to serve as Convenor. Work and Life commitments have taken him to live in Spain but he continues to offer what experience he has in the battle to change the law in Scotland. Peter remains a Trustee on the Board.
Moira has been a member of Friends at the End since 2009, has coordinated our Tayside Group since it was set up in the summer of 2017 and has always argued loudly that assisted dying should be legally available. Her background is mostly in training, on a range of subjects and in a variety of settings. A lot of years were spent in the employability field helping people, particularly those with disabilities, to find and keep suitable jobs. She worked in the voluntary sector for 18 years until January 2017, most recently as volunteer coordinator for a small cancer charity, and is now semi-retired, mainly doing voluntary work, but occasionally getting paid to deliver Scottish Mental Health First Aid courses on a freelance basis.
David is an accountant with experience in SMEs and third sector organisations with backgrounds in property and higher education. He has a professional interest in planning, and effective resource management. David has been a member of FATE since 2016. He convened the Edinburgh local group in its first year. David now supports the finance and membership sub-committees.
His support for FATE is inspired by his strong belief in personal liberty. In particular the right to choose to minimise the suffering associated with some incurable illnesses.
In his personal life, David enjoys walking with his dog Rupert and attending the theatre.
Dr. Libby Wilson
Dr. Libby Wilson was a founding member of Friends at the End helping to set up the organisation in 2000
Libby was a champion of choice, working primarily in the fields of family planning and right-to-die. The eldest of three children, she was born in Surrey to Lucy and James Bell Nicoll who had not long returned to the UK from their missionary work in Africa.
Initially working in general practice in the early 1950s she became aware of the difficulties in obtaining contraceptive advice, especially if you were unmarried. She was a founder of the 408 Clinic, one of the first family planning services available in the country for single women. In 1967 Libby moved with her family to Glasgow and worked for the Family Planning Service.
During this time Libby refused to let societal conformities stop her in her own mission of giving women of all ages, colours and classes choice over childbearing and sexual health. With her clear cut English accent and mischievous sense of humour she stepped over the thresholds and boundaries of women living in the most varied of circumstances, from dire poverty to middle-class society, and offered help and support in the form of the pill or ‘just a little jag’ of the contraceptive injection.
Following her retirement aged 64, Libby went to Sierra Leone for a year to work with Marie Stopes International and in 1997 she published a book called ‘Unexpected Always Happen’ documenting her year in Africa and in 2004 her autobiographical account of her family planning work ‘Sex on the Rates’.
On her return she became a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Scotland after being introduced by a friend. Later, with others, she set up Friends at the End. Through her work with Friends at the End Libby pushed for right-to-die legislation in both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster; Libby’s work with Friends at the End also saw her work with those living with incurable illnesses and conditions who wanted to explore their end of life options. Libby helped hundreds of people at the end of their lives, being a constant source of support at the end of the telephone – day or night, driving up and down the country to visit people, to help them with their medical records or to write living wills etc. She put herself out there, completely for the benefit of others, and helped countless people have a happy and peaceful death.
A regular on television and radio until her late 80s, Libby was not one to shy away from the controversy often caused by her campaigns. Instead she spoke freely about her beliefs and used the publicity to further promote her causes, always driven by the principles of allowing people to make choices about the start and end of life.
Libby went on many trips with her right to die work and was very active in the international right to die movement travelling to various world federation and European conferences ranging from Tokyo in 2004, Melbourne in 2010 and Zurich in 2012. Libby was a prominent pillar of the right to die community, she sat on the seven member board of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies from 2002-2004 and received the World Federation Health Professionals award in 2010 –this is an award given every 2 years to the healthcare professional who has set a good example to other doctors and nurses in the international right to die movement.
Libby was someone who was not afraid to stand up and be vocal about what she believed in, especially when it was a matter of principle, as the founding Patron of Friends at the End this value set ensured that the organisation went from strength to strength under her directorship and we continue to work tirelessly with her legacy at the forefront.