“Dangerous Road” 3

Three articles on successive pages of The Times last week (5th September 2011) made for an uncomfortable juxtaposition.  They were entitled “prosecutors clear the way for assisted suicides“, “MPs given poll warning on abortion” and “jails to help ageing prisoners die with dignity“.  They were unrelated issues written by separate journalists but there is a thread which joins them and leads in an ominous direction.

The first article continues the theme of assisted suicide which I have been writing about for the last year.  See my earlier blogs:

  • Dangerous Road 2 – 24 August 2011
  • Dangerous Road – 20 July 2011

It marks another step down a very slippery slope.  At least 30 people suspected of helping a friend or relative to commit suicide have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, but none have been prosecuted.   This has all happened in the last eighteen months, since new guidelines were issued which suggested no prosecution should take place where the act is taken out of compassion by a relative.  This follows on from the Debbie Purdy case which I commented on in my blog “Lucy Died Today” dated 22 March 2010.  The Director of Public Prosecutions issued 8 pages of guidance aimed at clarifying the position on prosecution whilst continuing to affirm that assisted suicide is still illegal.  I doubt many people will read the 8 pages in their contemplation .

The second article about abortion is maybe a history lesson in how the law can be gradually changed by a series of reasonable steps which eventually lead to a point a very long way from the start of the journey.  Fifty years ago, abortion was a taboo subject and illegal in the eyes of the law.  That led to “back street abortions” and unforgiving attitudes.  The sexual revolution of the 1960’s opened the door to a more tolerant attitude to abortion and “medical grounds” became the new criteria of acceptability.  In turn those definitions have been widened further to the point of “abortion on demand”.  200,000 abortions were performed in the UK last year and the debate has moved to who should provide counseling.  The law as a barrier to abortion, would seem to have disappeared completely.

I am not saying that the early loosening of the law was wrong, just that when laws become guidelines, the boundaries of acceptability become very blurred.  Ultimately the law is effectively changed by default, rather than by clear decision.  In the intervening years, there is a great deal of anxiety, and case-law is made up as we go along.

You have to wonder whether this is the road we are about to travel with end of life care in relation to “assisted death”.

The third article is about the treatment of the increasing number of older prisoners, who end their lives in jail.  It argues for better provision for inmates to cope with increased frailty, poor mobility and memory loss as they grow old.  Given that the state is in an inescapable position of responsibility, steps will have to be taken to ensure the Government doesn’t get sued for poor treatment of pensioner prisoners.  Let’s hope they are cared for rather better than poor pensioners on the outside who are incarcerated in their own homes or neglected in residential homes and NHS hospitals.

Faced with these three different scenarios, you have to worry in the years ahead how long it will be before a hard pressed Home Secretary joins all the stories together and weaves a very dangerous thread 😦 .

This entry was posted in Assisted Suicide, ELDERLY UK POLICY. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Dangerous Road” 3

  1. It is not what is said, or initially intended, it is the interpretation sometime later on. Reading the blog today dangerous roads 3, and the tag cloud: then this issue has to be aired! However reading the Dangerous Road 3 blog in isolation I find the conversation getting distorted, by my interprtation of the literal written word?
    For instance three societies live in institutional establishments,1/ Prisoners,2 patients geriatric hospitals, and 3 / old peoples homes run by the state or other organisation, andm 4/ patients in a mental establishment. All vunerable to the whim of the people, and society may become hardened to economic reality.
    We need to fight the easy answer, but we do I feel need compassion, and life is sacrosant and it is still an unpalatbale discussion, but we must have it, and not with emotion but a hard head, and a very kind heart. It would be intersting if the church were to express any views on this subject.

  2. Yesterday Friday 30 September 2011, Inside the Daily Mail Page 14 or so? there was a full page piece on a Judges Judgement, on where the care of a comotoised personality was refered to the courts for a ruling ( I assume case law) as to whether medical and life saving support could be ‘switched off’.
    The upshot was NO and a very coherient set of reasons.
    Again this brings to the fore the sanctity of life.
    We are all human, and reading this case by the cold light of day and not being personally invovled, one has to question, what part does the law play, and having made a ruling, are court costs and the cost of the personalities well being bourne by the state? Or should they be? and can the state or the law demand as the ruling is in favour of the personality demand that the personaliteis estate/family pay all the future costs foreseeable for an indefinite period to maintain the medical and well being care needed?
    As you can see all ready I am thinking about the green eyed monster of the dollar$. However the law is the law, where is the family interest and that of the medical profession in this case? You need to read the piece, but certainly the devil has been stirred inside me, and I do not know the way I would go, But are all of people that bad with thier loved ones? I wonder what is compassion and how does one define it?
    Answers on a post card please.

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