Polly Toynbee’s Death Bed

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.

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5 Responses to Polly Toynbee’s Death Bed

  1. davidfreeman says:

    Again John you have stirred my ‘soul’. I have referred to Poly’s piece on the ‘Guardian WEB site’ and I am still confused?
    AS you point out or wish to point out-when are or is one ‘’ compus mentous’’ and has all their marble and faculties at home?
    Poly argues both points of view, or should I say discuss them-puts them forward:
    One in pain may make a decision, One who has a disease or mental ailment where the quality of life [to an outsider may be unbearable] and unable to make a decision,then we need/require society to regulate what is death, and more to the position what is the point at which death is declared!!! No bells and whistles just an end to life? Snuff the light out of the soul???
    Poly in my understanding of her piece causes me confusion, and challenges one’s beliefs in ones ‘’GOD’’ who ever that may be?
    I was taught as a younger person by my greater family, and the state education system to respect my Christian religious beliefs, and all though never discussed openly at my formative years to preserve and fight for life, and for others to have the right for/to life, and to live. Now I am that older man, my parents have since passed away; death is but a shadow away for me and I have to come to terms with reality. I note as you may the Gosport report in the case studies mentioned persons of 75+ in age? The bible mentions ‘three score years and ten’ I ask you what is a good innings? How do you declare the game?
    AS a Christian [not a regular church goer- but believer] Life is sacred, and all though not a medical doctor I trust the medical clinicians strongly believe in the hypocrite Oath, and defend life.
    Now we / I come to the uncomfortable part of my belief, I do not wish my government to decide when I die {That was undertaken in the 1930’s in the holocaust, and I do not wish to see it repeated, or the idea of a state death penalty for the 75+’s for the convenience of the state.
    When time calls I wish for a doctor of what ever faith to openly discuss with me, and my children and Offspring what is the ‘’Call of Nature’’ and to exit this earth with dignity.
    Money and the green eyed monster comes into the equation, I am no fool, however I trust I have talked openly with my immediate children and offspring, and have voted as a responsible citizen during my own life time to have voted and expressed the view that death or the point of death is a very personal matter and that for my offspring they support my Christian faith [GOD] and the hypocrite oath are paramount in preserving life. There is no final answer but just trust in ones fellow man/woman and the beliefs and ideals we teach our own children, within this family and society of ours!.

  2. davidfreeman says:

    Who am I
    Following on from Polly Entomb and her tirade into death, I ask who am I? who’s is she?? {the devil in carnate I trust not?}
    Yesterday I enjoyed as a guest being invited to one of Molly’s academics silver wedding anniversary. One of the family celebrating this happy event engaged me in a conversation, regarding beliefs of what life is all about!
    The younger gentleman was a ‘Pentecostal Pastor’ at a local church in Oxford. The gentleman was most concerned about his parishioners, who where from all walks of life, and countries of the world, especially the Carribeanian, Africa and Asia and he middle east. WE talked about ‘faith’ in society, and he was most concerned with the minority Islamic view from the middle east, of there being domination of ISLAM as a world faith, by what ever means possible-violence being one of them.
    What stuck me was his views of the world religions and I will call them ‘DEVOUT FOLLOWERS of a faith, whether they be Christian [Greek/Russian/catholic/protestant] or far eastern beliefs Hindu/Buddhism and others, or the modern world religions in the USA Pentecostal/ Christian scientist/ Mormons ETC] or Judaism. Who ever is your GOD?
    Here the pastor gentleman was banging the drum for understanding and tolerance between each religion, with a cautionary note of less of the ‘strict word of god’ however issued in the bible or the Koran or other tablets of stone to which the devote follow without question, and to reason as to how to get along with those unbelievers of this world. The word ‘’BIGOTED comes to mind, and the influence of the church elders not to lead but brainwash without question, and too control the minds and hence the actions of their perceived followers.
    Going back a step, It is a Sunday to Polly piece above and my comments: I ask why as we get older do we encourage our younger citizens to remember their fallen comrades in times of conflict? It is correct to do so as I have been taught and believe in. I also believe it is when we are older we appreciated the cost or the price of life? Hence we should not encourage our society to cheapen the point at which death takes hold of the older citizens.

  3. davidfreeman says:

    polly Toynbee apologies

  4. Me before you 21.00 on 27 January 2019 Channel 5 TV.
    A gentle film story by JoJo Moyes, and very poinient. From the write up in the TV magazine pages of my newspaper, I believed I was watching or about to watch a romantic drama? Which in fact I did: After the closing of the film, which I found enjoyable, I reflected in what John has touched on the theme of ‘’DIGITAS’’ in the various pages of the ‘Smiles and Grumbles Blog’
    What has intrigued me, and made me self doubt at my age in life in my mid 70’s, and question seriously and ask the question:- is a visit to the ‘DIGITAS’ clinic ‘Wrong’ in all circumstances?
    There is no easy answer, for myself, and I still adamantly believe when and if the time comes around ‘Death is not a choice? But a sincere understanding between me, my GOD, and the attending medical practitioner-it is a very personal and ethical call to those who love me!
    The film has shown the end of life, and death with dignity, what really frightens me is ‘’SOCIETY’’??? Should we in the UK decide as a massed society that administered death/suicide is a political will/nicety, and as the recent media story of The ‘PORTSMOUTH memorial Hospital, attitude practice of alleged pre-ordained death for the elderly and in-firmed is a ‘SOCIAL and ECONOMIC MUST’, then I am vehemently against a social dogma that preordains death, for political/social expediency.
    What one does about the attitude and facilities such as ‘DIGNITAS’ offers, I would not be so quick to come to a conclusion on, provide respect is paid by all and the ‘hypocrite oath’ ethos is fully understood, and practised.
    One of the attitudes I have failed to understand through out the film, is the question, should the story have been about a woman wishing to visit the ‘DIGNITAS’ clinic would my thought process have drawn the same conclusions! I wonder? The writer and film director JOJO Moyes is a a woman, and while the storyline is of service, dedication and love a man! I just wonder would a woman in the same position as the lead character receive such tender loving care, and would she as the giver of life, be prepared to visit and even consider the clinic ‘DIGNITAS’?
    Over to you- what do think??

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