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…