Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Thursday, 11 December 2008

"Right To Die"

No one who say Sky’s “Right To Die” last night can have failed to be moved by it.

After all the wailing and teeth-gnashing from various religious and “right to life” groups, we saw the presentation of a hugely difficult issue which was, at various stages, touching, sad and funny, but which was throughout dignified and sensitive. It gave a fascinating insight into the work of Dignitas and delved deep into the trauma that medical science has unwittingly brought us by keeping people living longer despite appalling illnesses.

At the centre of the documentary were Craig Ewert, struck down by incurable disease leading to ever-decreasing faculties, and his wonderfully supportive and loving wife. Ewert had, simply, had enough. His mind was still sharp and active, his sense of humour in tact, and he was under no illusions about the decision he was making. He wanted to die but could not end his own life.

As someone who watched his own mother go through six months of helpless despair, limited to pretty much the same physical capabilities that Craig Ewert had at his disposal and longing for the end to come, I understand completely that there comes a time in many lives when people want to call it a day but need help to do it.

I believe that to keep people like Craig Ewert alive when they have no wish to be is fundamentally wrong. Just as people have a right to life, so they have one to death, too. Where they cannot achieve their own death and they find someone willing to help them, then the State has no business to stop them. Yes, there must be safeguards, but the judicial system is quite capable of devising procedures which protect the vulnerable.

Gordon Brown said in the Commons yesterday that he does not favour a relaxation of the law in the UK because he was concerned that some people may feel “pressured” into requesting an assisted suicide. I think this argument is fallacious. We may all have to face, at some point, the prospect of continuing our lives and, in so doing, placing significant burdens upon others. What last night’s programme made me realise was that, in my own mind, relieving others from such burden is a perfectly legitimate factor to take into account in deciding to end one’s life. I would not want my wife or children have to put the own lives on hold just because I am too frail to look after myself. I think I will know when the time is right for me to go. I should be allowed to enlist willing help.

As for the rights and wrongs of the programme’s transmission, I believe that those who objected to it will, in no small part, by those self-same people who do not want a debate on assisted suicides. Yet as a contribution to that debate, this programme had no equals that I’m aware of. Sky should be congratulated for having the guts to produce such an open and honest account of one person’s suicide. Doubtless the complaints will pour in from people who knew they wouldn’t like it but could not bring themselves to watch something else instead; those complaints should be ignored.

The other aspect of this issue for me is the level of confusion that now exists under UK law. Yesterday a couple escaped prosecution after they helped their son die in a Dignitas clinic. The CPS decided that a prosecution is “not in the public interest”.

I’ve never understood this “public interest” business. Either the CPS think someone has broken the law or they don’t. What is this “public interest” and who are they CPS to judge it ? Although I personally think it’s right that parents should be allowed to help their child to die if that’s what the child wants, the fact remains that the law in this country is in a God-awful mess. People simply have no way of knowing where they stand, what they can do and what they can’t. The government needs to sort it out.

3 comments:

Charlie dog said...

Hi Womble

I didn't watch the program, but I did see many clips during the day. It is an area we need to have the courage to sort out. Gordon seems to think it is okay to take a person's organs without consent but not to take their life with their consent. It is awful to force people to travel abroad in order to die with dignity.

I nursed my mother in law through her final six weeks of liver cancer at home, this was very traumatic and sad, the Macmillan, Marie Curie and district nurses were tremendous and made sure she had all the pain relief needed so I don't think she would have chosen a different route. However I know that and many people are terrified of being left at the mercy of their local hospital which has already left them suffering unnecessary pain.

This is a very difficult area but it could be much better handled.

Mrs S.

Mrs Smallprint said...

Whoops, you got Charlie dog instead of Mrs S., however we both agree on this one so never mind.

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