Right to die

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118 ayes to 330 nos. MPs are flying in the face of public opinion with today’s vote against a change of law for assisted suicide. Many polls show that up to 80% of the general public support some form of euthanasia, yet they are happy to leave the current muddled laws in place instead rather than have a strong and open debate on the subject.

How often have you heard the phrase “You wouldn’t let an animal suffer like this” when we talk about seriously ill people? I have lost count and have yet to meet anyone who opposes it in principle. We are all aware that there are grey areas and we need to ensure that the patient has the final say and that professionals need to ensure the balance between the Hippocratic oath and the best thing for the patient.

There are so many people who have broken the law already in this country – both relatives who can’t stand watching the slow disintegration of their loved ones, and doctors and nurses who prescribe a wee bit too much morphine to allow those in serious pain the chance to die. There are also questions around the relatives of those who go abroad to euthanasia clinics abroad who on their return may be questioned or charged.

What we need is a proper national conversation about this rather than all speaking in private to friends and family. I know that I  were terminally ill and had no quality of life I’d much rather be helped to die at that point than sit and suffer at the hands of life-preserving machines and medicine.

And that’s a huge point that is always overlooked in this area – the advance of medicine and technology. While they have helped many – including myself – to beat illnesses like cancer, heart disease, strokes and other ailments, there is a point where we are keeping people alive beyond the natural points of death. At least four of my grandparents have lived beyond their times because of the miracles of chemistry and machinery – but it also involved us watching people we loved slowly disappear in front of us.

Stuck in a home, minds still reasonably alert stuck in bodies that were broken. Pain was an issue; damaged organs an issue; immobility an issue; loss of use of limbs an issue – is this really the future for us too? A decision taken by a human while in sound mind should be legally binding. If I make a living will that I want to be put to sleep in certain circumstances then that should take priority. So if technology and medical advances allow us to live longer – surely the balance is that those same methods should allow us to die too.

For our MPs to ignore the public on this matter (and many others) shows yet again they are not representing us and I hope that they and their families are never faced with relatives or friends in a situation where allow them to die would be the right thing to do.

JD

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