This subject has been a thread running through many of my posts ever since I started this blog in 2010. It was prompted by the story of Debbie Purdey, an MS sufferer who wanted “the right to die”. (See “Lucy Died Today” in the ARCHIVE – MARCH 2010).
In the five years since then, I have written nearly 20 posts on the subject – (you can find them all by clicking on “Assisted Suicide” in the TOPICS list and the TAG CLOUD). It is an emotive subject, which has been brought into the headlines by Lord Falconer’s Bill in the House of Lords and then the House of Commons. There are strong words and sincerely held views on both sides on the argument.
The emotion is captured in the names of the two opposing lobby groups – “Dignity in Dying” and “Care not Killing”.
Throughout, this protracted discussion has been punctuated by personal stories of individuals making the heart-rending decision to end their own lives by travelling to the euphemistically named “Dignitas Clinic” in Switzerland.
The arguments hang around three key issues :-
- firstly, being able to draw clear boundaries around the definition of “terminal illness”. When the reality is that there are no clear boundaries and there has to be a fear that the definition of “terminal illness” will be stretched over time to include issues where quality of life is severely impaired – like dementia. Especially when so many beds are blocked by dementia patients.
- The second key question is “how long have you got to live”? Only God knows the answer to that question, but if two doctors can’t see you living for more than 6 months, they would be able to authorise your assisted suicide.
- The final issue is consent. The good news is you have to agree to this procedure, but be careful not to do so in a moment of depression or guilt after being led to believe you are a burden. There are no second chances, no room for regret.
I am relieved to say that MP’s in the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted down the Bill on the 11th September 2015 by 330 against to 115 in favour.
In all my previous posts, whilst I acknowledge there is strength and compassion on both sides of the arguments, I have always leaned in favour of not changing the law.
I worked for years with older people, many of whom had great frailties to overcome. The great lesson I have been left with is a memory of how much people can achieve in later life in spite of the ravages of old age.
With that in mind I would much prefer people in later life to have:-
A Right to Live
P. S. I very much doubt this debate is over.