This post follows on from my blog last week about the “National Death Service”.
I wasn’t the only one to take note of the Jones report on early deaths at Gosport Hospital. Just days after its publication, Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, had already reached some firm conclusions about the implications of the reports findings. She has long been a champion of the case for assisted suicide.
After reading about the power over life that is entrusted to GP’s, which led to the premature death of up to 650 elderly people, she concludes that we should legalise assisted suicide for all doctors. I think the knee-jerk reaction of that decision, defies all common sense.
She caveats her proposal by at least saying that “people should be fully alert” when making their choice to die. Therein lies the problem. Who decides when you are “fully alert” ?
- Two doctors, one of whom in most cases will have never seen you before you were admitted to hospital and the other will probably never see you but rely on the word of the first doctor?
- or A high court judge, who at best can only administer the case on paper to make sure the boxes are all ticked. I don’t think they will do hospital or home visits ?
- or Your loving relatives who are wondering how long they can pay the costs of care, or when they will get their inheritance ?
- or A hospital manager desperately trying to find a spare bed for the next elderly patient waiting in a corridor in A&E.
- or Your solicitor when you write your living will, maybe several years before you are at a low ebb.
- or You yourself, when you have reached the depths of depression, ………… or are just lonely,………… or thinking you are a burden on everyone else.
It could be any or all of those reasons, but surely you need greater certainty to decide a death sentence.
I have written about assisted suicide many times in my blog (you can see all the earlier posts on this subject by clicking on “Assisted Suicide” in the TAG CLOUD). I have always been on the opposite side of the debate to Polly Toynbee but not with the same degree of certainty that she seems to have about legalising the process of assisted dying. It has been the subject of much discussion in the House of Lords but a change in the current law has never been accepted in the House of Commons.
There has always been a quiet collusion between doctors, patients and their relatives about the final days of people’s lives and though it is not strictly legal, no prosecutions have resulted from this, as far as I am aware. I support and accept this position, provided there is the involvement of all the parties.
However, with every case of abuse of the process, like the current one at Gosport Hospital, or the earlier example of Dr Harold Shipman, or the widespread adoption of the Liverpool Pathway protocol, the move to legalising assisted suicide gets ever closer. What’s more the inquiries that follow such abuses, inevitably create a climate of fear among doctors which prevents them from taking compassionate action for individuals.