Assisted suicide – the view from someone with a vested interest…

A serious bone of contention right now is the issue of assisted suicide, and the legality thereof – and I really cannot get my head around the claims that it’s bad news for disabled people, and a slippery slope to euthanasia – that’s bullshit. As for the pro-life brigade – here’s a thought – mind your own bloody business! Go run your own lives, don’t interfere with mine or anyone else’s.

The legality or otherwise, of course, lies in the assistance, not the suicide, and the recommendation is that the person providing the assistance should not be punished as long as certain criteria are met (in point of fact it’s rare for anyone in Britain to be prosecuted but it’s not, currently, impossible for that to happen). You cannot, for example, push Granny off Snowdon, and claim it was her idea!

The Commission for Assisted Dying says it would be possible to legally allow assisted suicide for terminally ill people under strict criteria: principally, people must be at least 18 years old, and making a voluntary choice free from coercion or mental health problems. The huge problem there is that mental health problems do not always preclude the ability to make rational decisions, and a blanket ban like that is not really acceptable.

The experts also called for additional safeguards, should assisted suicide be legalized, which would include the requirement for patients to be seen by at least two doctors. The system would not let doctors administer a lethal dose but would give such medication to the patient to take when he or she chooses after the other criteria has been met. They say, also that such events must take place in the last year of life, but who can say that with certainty? I know two people who have been given clean bills of health, and have died days later, and it’s well known that some people, given months to live, hang on for years.

So, I have problems with the commission’s recommendations. For a start, I have been extremely poorly served by the medical profession since moving to Wirral in 1984 – I have little desire to trust them further with my health, I sure as hell don’t intend to trust them at all to make a sensible decision regarding my death.

There is also a major snag – the commission also says, that assistance must be limited to the provision of suitably lethal drugs – the patient is not permitted any help whatsoever in the taking of them. So if you’ve suffered a catastrophic accident, or stroke, and are mostly paralysed, with no quality of life whatsoever, and you, quite understandably, want out, the person assisting you can put the lethal medication on your bedside table, along with a glass of water (or the materials and tools for a lethal injection), and that’s all. And that, to my mind, is unbelievably cruel.

I’d also take issue with the requirement for the illness to be terminal within a year. Surely what matters more is the quality of life and the wishes of the person? It is perfectly possible to linger for decades with only the most minimal of motor functions or ability to communicate – I’m damn sure I wouldn’t want to, nor would many other people, if given a choice. And please, don’t tell me that, no matter what, life is precious – for many people it can be an intolerable burden.

(Source for the Commission for Assisted Death info, AP and The Guardian)

I do, of course, have a dog in this fight, and I made my opinion on the subject perfectly clear in this post – to which I can only add that I’ve no desire to be in the position of wanting, or needing help – when I get to the stage where I’m becoming a burden to myself, or to others and/or pain and disability become intolerable, I’m gone. No-one will be left wondering if they’re going to be busted, because no-one else will be involved. My decision, my action. And 100% my choice – no doctors will be involved in the process, except to pronounce me dead, by which time it won’t bother me.**

And really, I feel any terminally ill person, while in possession of their faculties, could do worse than to plan their own exit strategy, as I have (as to exactly how terminal my own illness is, I’m hoping to find out on Monday, when I’m supposed to see a consultant cardiologist). Mind you, my plans do rather depend on nature not having a final round of ultimate fuckuppery in store for me, with a stroke reducing my brain to porridge, while leaving me hanging on.

**I have to say, because I know some of you will be worried by my writing this, and I’m sorry if it upsets you, but I am not about to pull the plug. Life, admittedly, is crappy, and I’m at a particularly low ebb at the moment, physically and emotionally, but the point at which I willingly exit this vale of tears is not yet. And hopefully, though I have yet to be convinced of the truth of it, I might have a couple of years left. Personally, I doubt it but, hey, I’m not infallible. (I know! Who’d have thought it?)

Nor, as I said previously, will I just disappear – I’ll close down my life properly before I go, and find a custodian for my blog, too – there’s too much information in there to just let it fade away. I’ll also be looking for a home for my photography kit and my computers – oh hell, I suppose I’d better make a will!

In the meantime, I could do with a beer…

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13 thoughts on “Assisted suicide – the view from someone with a vested interest…

  1. Hi Ron,

    I very much agree with what you’ve said here. Generally speaking, I support the legalisation of assisted suicide, but as a disabled person am often made to feel that I am somehow ‘betraying’ the disabled community by holding this view.

    Interestingly, when people say things like “disabled people oppose assisted suicide”, I do often wonder which disabled people or groups they’ve asked, and how they can make such blanket statements.

    I too feel that the suggested requirements of a condition being terminal, and with a clear prediction of life expectency (which from what I’ve heard is a pretty inexact science!), is unfair and unrealistic. I also think that suggesting excluding people with mental health issues is unacceptable.

    As you point out, one can have a mental health condition (or a learning difficulty) and still have mental capacity. Additionally, I do think that people with any incurable condition that is not acceptably manageable enough to give them a decent quality of life, should also be eligible for assisted suicide, and I would include here people with severe and enduring mental health issues that have not responded to adequately to treatment for them to have a quality of life they can cope with.

    It does frustrate me that even people who are ‘pro-choice’ draw the line at the idea of people with mental health issues using assisted suicide, but the reality is that for some people, mental health conditions are incurable. To say that if you want to end your life because of x condition, that’s understandable, but if you have y condition and are in equivalent pain etc, then you can’t and you’re just being irrational, is grossly unfair and an unacceptable double standard.

    Interestingly, when I was reading through some of the consultation responses, I did fine one doctor who did support assisted suicide for people with mental health conditions, but only when “public opinion allows”, and I fail to see how public opinion is relevant!

    Anyway, my little rant on mental health aside, I think i’ll end by quoting some of your post: “As for the pro-life brigade – here’s a thought – mind your own bloody business!”.

    Apples

  2. Watched my 90 year old grandmother suffer bedridden for two years.

    She wanted to die. She complained that now she could anything but the docs would give her the same bland sweetened ‘safe’ food for two years for every meal. She prayed for death.

    Her great granddaughter asked that she be fed whatever her last wishes wanted but she was accused of foolishness because the fatty food ‘might kill her’.

  3. The “British Angst” about admitting that a sane, rational person would ever willingly take their own life makes me sick. Though I am nowhere near the point of ending it all I can feel for anyone who needs to. I use the phrase NEEDS TO rather than wants to because I see that as the crux of the matter. I agree that there should be a simplified process, involving 2 independent professionals, to ensure that the person needing to end it all is doing so of their own free will. Whilst at a Klinik in Switzerland I was shown an automated injection device which can be actuated by a number of different methods. The doctor hooks the device up and then gives the patient the “trigger”, which can be a button to press, or even a suck and blow type controller so ANY patient is able to decide on the moment that it happens. they recommend that the whole thing be filmed to ensure that the procedures can be exactly followed.
    As for the beer, wish I could join you, but you know how it is with opiate pain killers and booze….. so I’m off to my “workshop” to make something!

    • The big problem with the Swiss system is money – most people can’t afford it.

      As for need v want – when a person reaches the point of ending their life – I doubt you could get a fag paper between the two.

  4. One thing I forgot to mention is that one of the most effective ways to commit suicide is to get yourself admitted to Ward 32, Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral. It should work – they certainly had a good go at killing me!

  5. Queen Elizabeth hospital south East London tried killing me twice as well!!
    Not getting me….
    Thanks Ron, your Rants are a breath of fresh air:)

  6. I’m with you all the way Ron. As a fairly independent quadriplegic of 40 years I used to be part of the ‘no way’ brigade. But these last 3 years have really shown me what lies ahead as my body starts to deteriorate through wear and tear and associated illness/disability. I don’t want to end my days in some miserable care home, waiting for death whilst knowing it might be years away. I’ve seen plenty of these as we’ve tried to find somewhere suitable for my mother in law. They’re all understaffed with minimum wage girls who’ll have no knowledge of how an aging spinal injured person should be cared for. I’d like to choose when I want to go and not be left to rot away with no quality of life.

    • Quite – as I said in my earlier post on this subject, I already have my exit kit stashed away for when it’s needed. Hopefully, that won’t be for a while, but you can never tell.

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