Dignity would be nice

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Pratchett

People talk about dying with dignity when discussing euthanasia, I think they are wrong. We should live with dignity and die when it’s right to – whether naturally or with help.

I’ve watched a  couple of family members now who have struggled and suffered as their bodies were ready to give up, the pain was too much but because the doctors have to uphold their Hippocratic oath they give them the means to survive and give them pain relief when actually making them live longer is cruel and inhumane. It’s not the doctor’s fault, it’s their job but we need as a developed and intelligent society to at least discuss he issue more openly both in society and in politics. We’re facing another situation in the family where someone is being kept alive through pills and potions when it seems wrong to do so as they are suffering and in pain – can we get the balance right?

The image from above was from last year’s documentary from Terry Pratchett called “Choosing to Die” where he looked at the work Dignitas did in Switzerland aiding those who wished their lives to end. Each person’s life and situation was dealt with purely on fact; Pratchett did not preach or show any real bias in the presentation of the stories, he was an observer and trying educate himself on the subject. His reason being he needed to see what his future may be as he is suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease and wonders if he would need to make this kind of decision himself one day. It was one of the most difficult things to watch people making the decision with family and partners to end their lives. You can still watch the documentary online at http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xnu340_terry-pratchett-choosing-to-die_shortfilms#.UXBDX_pwaUk

There seems to still be a big public taboo about the subject but many people I have spoken to about the issue are very open to it with comparison to animals often made – we are willing to end the life of an animal suffering but we refuse a human the right to make that choice for themselves. Many worry about the pressure some would be put under, but I doubt very many would find themselves in that situation if it were organised and policed well enough. Our European neighbours in  Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg have fully legalised Euthanasia and assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and in the US states of Washington, Oregon and Montana. We seem to have blinker on in the UK about the subject with only Scotland really having discussed the idea through Margo McDonald’s white paper.

We need to start discussing it seriously in the next few years. I know I would never want to get to the point that the machines and drips and pills and potions were keeping me alive rather than my body. We have an aging population and a generally positive attitude to assisted suicide in the UK and Ireland according to recent polls. Are we going to keep hundreds of people alive, suffering and unable to live independently or are we going to give them a legal choice in the matter of their own existence? The conversation needs to start in earnest.

JD

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