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Euthanasia debate

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Jamie Angus Jamie Angus | 17:45 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

How do you like your national debate to be held? It's a nebulous concept often invoked when tricky ethical issues like euthanasia are in the news.

World at One logoOn The World at One in the last two weeks we've had several occasions to ask whether the national debate around euthanasia is being led too much by celebrity endorsements in favour of relaxing the current law.

A week after the suggestion by Martin Amis that "euthanasia booths" should be available on street corners, the news was dominated by the author Terry Pratchett's Richard Dimbleby Lecture which advocated a system of tribunals to remove the fear of prosecution from relatives.

On that day's World at One the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu complained about the debate, saying "I would rather listen to the voices of disabled people than to the voices of celebrities or the voices of 1,000 people in an opinion poll."

Two weeks later, the broadcaster Ray Gosling admitted killing a former lover who was dying from an Aids-related illness and defended his actions in in a series of impassioned interviews.

The MP Brian Iddon told The World at One that Parliament was the right place to set the laws around these questions and that he feared campaigners were trying to change the law in the courts.

His view is shared by Lee Rayfield, the Bishop of Swindon, who told the PM programme later in the afternoon that the celebrity-led discussion excluded the views of possible victims, people who "weren't in control of their lives" and that the concept of "compassion" in the debate had been claimed unfairly by the pro-reform campaign.

The presence of the Church in this debate irks some of our listeners. One asked "why do you feel the need to wheel out these numbskull clerics on any opportunity?"

But there does seem to me to be a relative shortage of prominent secular voices opposing a relaxation of the law. I wonder whether this reflects the fact that Britain's arts and science establishment and our usual commentariat are just more liberal on this issue than the population as a whole.

Or perhaps you'd rather hear more from people experiencing this dilemma for real - either the couple in their 80s who e-mailed us to say they were "disgusted with the amoralism of the BBC" or another correspondent who praised "an amazing, brave thing to do. I'd like to think I'd be able to do the same for someone I loved - and that someone I loved would do the same for me."

Jamie Angus is the editor of The World at One and The World This Weekend.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I suspect thisis one of the very rare occasions where the 'arts and science establishment and our usual commentariat' is actually very much in line with the views of the population as a whole.

  • Comment number 2.

    "How do you like your national debate to be held?"

    It appears to have been occurring anyway over the past few years, not least as a result of several high profile court cases.

    All of us would want a peaceful, painless end to our lives, preferably one that allows us some degree of dignity.

    At the very least I hope my end is quick; it is not death I fear, but the dying.

    For some, such as my father, the end was quite quick; a heart attack at home, unable to be resuscitated when medical aid arrived.

    For others the end is a long, slow descent; often both physically and mentally.
    My mother died of dementia in a care-home; her care was exemplary but she was unrecognisable as her former self; in her few lucid moments she could recognise what was happening to her, and how it would end; her anguish was plain to comprehend.

    We seek control over our lives; of that which satisfies our needs and wants, that gives us happiness and contentment.

    If I find that one day I have a terminal, increasingly debilitating illness why should I not seek, and be allowed, some control over how and when my life ends?
    I would like to be able to ask a doctor for assistance in bringing about a swift, peaceful end in such circumstances.

    And if I were not in a position to act myself then I would like to be allowed to ask for help in how my end comes, as an act of love.

    "But there does seem to me to be a relative shortage of prominent secular voices opposing a relaxation of the law."

    Perhaps many without deep religious belief in the sanctity of human life deep-down feel as I do on this issue?

    In the UK a recent opinion poll showed 80% believe relatives should be allowed to help terminally ill loved ones to take their own lives if they wish to die.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7123152/Assisted-suicide-4-in-5-say-do-not-prosecute.html

    In several other countries (e.g. Australia, Canada) public opinion polls also show strong support for some form of legal euthanasia.

    Perhaps the argument should be over the type of safeguards that should be put in place? And I do agree that there needs to be safeguards, checks and balances etc.

    I'd prefer it if the medical profession were involved in any such decision and action. I'd also suggest more than one doctor needs to be involved in the decision making process; and that there be a right of appeal. That medical staff should be allowed the right of opting-out of participating on grounds of conscience and so on.

    I would support the holding of a national referendum on this issue.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why no mention of Baroness Campbell, one of the prominent secular voices which you say have not been heard against euthanasia? I would also like to make it clear that a natural death does not always involve terrible suffering, both my parents passed away in their sleep.
    I am very much in favour of advance statements and advance directives, and intend to make these myself when I am older. But these are only about refusing treatment and allowing nature to take its course, not about assisted suicide or euthanasia.

  • Comment number 4.

    Re Mr Ray Gosling
    I have every sympathy for this gentleman. My husband died aged 55 within 8 months of being diagnosed with a brain tumour last year. He was so active and fit before and declined so quickly it was hard to belive. He couldn't walk, see, talk properly or feed himself. In his final days he was in desperate and terrifying pain. If I went into the horrific details in depth I'm sure most people would agree with me. I would have invited them to be there to witness the awful truth and I think this would be mind-changing. He did ask me to kill him by giving extra morphine but I couldn't do it. I do wish I had. His death will haunt me forever, even though he was in a hospice for his final days and they did the best they could. I do think where there is absolutely no hope of recovery it would be the humane thing to elleviate suffering and pain.
    I don't think Mr Gosling (nor anyone else in the same position) should be punished for an act of compassion even though it is hard to live with.

    Chrissie

  • Comment number 5.

    Following on from Chrissie's comment (#4) I have to agree that it seems most inappropriate to arrest Ray Gosling in these circumstances.
    If we allowed a pet to suffer a painful death we would be prosecuted and yet if we try to prevent a loved one from suffering the same fate the law regards this as criminal. Obviously the church has had too much influence in making laws. It's all very well to quote "Thou shalt not kill" but if they considered it right to slaughter thousands during the Crusades and the many other wars caused by religious differences then they can hardly turn round and say it's wrong to end the life of a loved one who is suffering a slow and painful death. It would obviously be wrong to give everyone carte blanche to 'mercy kill' sick relatives but if a proper system were put in place whereby medical staff could consider every case individually, taking into account the patient's and family's wishes then there would be no question of 'murder' and no-one would be forced to take the terrible option of trying to end the suffering of a loved one by themselves.

  • Comment number 6.

    How do you like your national debate to be held?
    Well, nationally, & that's why BBC is such a great forum because it reaches your nation, my nation and so many other nations, though I believe euthanasia decisions must be made country by country, or should I say culture by culture.
    I don't know why celebrity endorsements mean a gosh-darn thing as far as euthanasia is concerned unless they themselves are terminally ill and going through the crisis.
    I feel Martin Amis is wrong: "euthanasia booths" should not be available on street corners - except perhaps to hand out information/pamphlets. Rather I agree with Pratchett/Dimbleby position which advocates a tribunal system. This system is not about "prosecution" of anyone; it's about wisdom & compassion, making the wisest, most compassionate decision that we can.
    The tribunal should include:
    the patient
    the patient's own doctor (probably a specialist)
    an independent doctor (always a specialist)
    a spiritual advisor if requested by the patient AND
    legal representation for legalities.
    Good on you, Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. Yes, we should be listening to the voices of the disabled, the suffering, the dying, the hopeless - not the voices of celebrities.
    I hold that Courts are the place to set the laws; after all, when someone breaks the rules & euthanasia occurs where do we haul his sorry self, before Parliament?
    The presence of the Church I don't feel should be necessary and may even be offencive to the most important person - the person who is dying.
    I wouldn't mind hearing from people who are facing the euthansia crisis, but I imagine that they would speak about dignity, respect, having control, taking their life (or the ending of it) into their own hands. And yes, oh yes, I want you to have it there - in your hands.

  • Comment number 7.

    I agree with much that SheffTim writes in #2.

    My mother suffered a slow death from inoperable cancer at a relatively young age. My father lost consciousness from a stroke/brain haemorrhage and died two days later at a good age. As SheffTim says, the dying is the unknown quantity that we mostly fear.

    I understand all the great concerns there are about euthanasia, the many checks and balances that would be necessary to eliminate all risk of abuse, but I am most anxious about unnecessary pain and suffering. The key word is "unnecessary".

    However, I am also aware that current medical science is hitting on snags over "vegetative states", whereby some people appearing comatose and often relying on artificial life support, may actually be contactable and able to communicate. In my view some of this blurs the line between subconsciousness and consciousness, in much the same way that deep hypnotic trances do. Following from this are myriad questions and possibilities about the potential of our own minds to survive when all else appears to fail. It also establishes hypnotism as a very valuable tool in medical science, one which is ignored in spite of doctors being trained to use it.

    My current vantage point is that the individual, capable of making a choice, should have that choice heard and it would be dangerous to prevaricate simply by rote. When I heard of Terry Pratchett's tribunal idea I felt it had much mileage, and I still do.

    We must remember that just because something is there does not mean every person will choose to use it. If we seek to protect individuals from pressure (either way) then we have a system that could work and it is at least worth having a deeper discussion about.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am 73 years old with a Neuropathy apparently not "Terminal." However, for my sake and the sake of my loved ones, (family) I would like to be able Lawfully to have my life Terminated if I become "incompetent of Brain or body.
    Euthanasia is open to the rich already, one day it must be open for all.
    It would save the NHS.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am non-religious and I am definitely against euthanasia and assisted dying being facilitated in law.

    Whilst I have great sympathy for those caught up in the moment, spare a thought for those who for one reason or another are wards of court or not considered to be in charge of their own facilities, these people have life choices made for them ostensibly in their own best interests.

    Allowing euthanasia opens the door for the state to apply legally sanctioned death to those deemed not fit to make their own decisions. It starts with the terminally ill and mentally untreatable and soon moves on to the socially/politically unacceptable.

    The deliberate taking of someones life should be unlawful, this means that in every instance there will be a judicial process after the fact.

    It may be the case that seeing a loved one suffering so much had impaired your judgement so much that at the time you were 'not of balanced mind' and so a charge of manslaughter rather than murder could be levelled.

    The Judge who passes sentence must look at punishment for the offence, protection of the public in future from the offender and the rehabilitation of the offender back into society.

    There is nothing stopping the Judge from deciding in a particular case, eg a wife assisting her terminally ill husband of 40 years, that she had been punished enough by having her life partner suffer so much and then be parted from him, she is unlikely to re-offend and so there is no real future danger to the public and the Judge could order that as part of her rehabilitation that she be supported as she is now alone.

    In another case the Judge could decide the motivation was nefarious and apply the penalties accordingly.

    Each and every case is different and must be individually Judged upon its own merits.

    State sanctioned euthanasia is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.

  • Comment number 10.

    If I am suffering pain and anguish caused by incurable illness, I hope I will be allowed to end my life in a dignified manner and if this means I require assistance then those who provide it should be free from any threat of legal retribution.

    The key is informed consent. As long as I can assure at least two doctors I am fully aware of my condition and its prognosis, and I am mentally competent then I should have the right to end my own existence.

    And religion should have no part to play in my decision. The Abrahamic religions at least (I lack enough detailed knowledge of others) are just a set of man made rules created over the last two thousand years using psychological tricks (group peer pressure etc.) to control the behaviour of large groups of people. Sadly in modern times the best that can be said of the proponents of these religions is that they are misguided.

  • Comment number 11.

    A none religious moral argument about this issue can be developed in this way using the ideas of Kant. He said that you could only have moral justification for action if that justification could be applied universally to the action And this had to be supported treating people as ends in themselves and not as means

    Killing people can be held to be universally wrong (indeed some would extend this to some animals).Certainly the second second rule would prevent killing being justified by any benefit to the killer materially or psychologically. It must be done in cold blood.

    You can ask then are there any circumstances etc that would justify the reframing the universal law to account for particular circumstances. In the present case it would be to allow / assist someone to kill themselves ….to commit suicide. This depends on whether suicide is a morally permissible action. But usually the augment moves on to bring in the progress of their life, and to transfer the accountability to doctors etc who will say whether or not their condition can be alleviated. which might affect their decision.

    Utilitarian arguments about calculating the greatest good to the greatest number are not permitted here. They rapidly lead to some sort of economic calculus which end up asking about the costs of looking after people in general. Aldous Huxley 75 years ago satirised this sort of rationalism in 'Brave New World' … everyone was killed at 60! Some of Amis's arguments suggest this sort of approach. ('avoiding placing a burden on the young')

    So end of life care to ensure people 'depart in peace' is perhaps something that should be looked for to avoid the dilemma

    Arguments about suicide can be developed in the same way and readers might try with current examples.

    For the religious the second part of the Decalog suggest the universal law is 'do not harm people' but most people I think hold it to do as you would be done by which makes is particular to a person rather than to all.

  • Comment number 12.

    In an ideal world, we would all die happily in our sleep. It's not an ideal world. Some people are obliged to suffer terribly before their ultimate demise. This is essentially the problem. People are viewing the curent debate as 'pro' and 'anti' but it is not. It is for change or for the status quo - because, currently, we are not allowed legally to help anyone we love die if they ask us to.
    Mr Gosling claims he killed his partner out of love. Ultimately, Mr Gosling is the one person in the world who will have to live with that decision until his own end.
    There is no 'right to die' debate here. It is the right to choice that many, many people want. That's all. And a little professional input to make that choice - if they choose to go through with it - (and many surveys show only a minority do) to make it quick, clean and straightforward.

  • Comment number 13.

    BluesBerry wrote:
    "I feel Martin Amis is wrong: "euthanasia booths" should not be available on street corners"

    If you watch the video of the interview where he made this statement then it would be obvious that this was a flippant remark and doesn't actually represent Mr Amis's views on the subject.
    He was talking about what he'd like for himself (when the time comes) and this comment was just an off-hand joke he was using to try to lighten what was a very serious discussion, unfortunately this was the one comment that the mainstream press picked up on and although Mr Amis made this clear the next day when being interviewed on Newsnight much of the press ignored this and carried on reporting it as if it was a serious comment and a strongly held belief.



    BobRocket wrote:
    "Allowing euthanasia opens the door for the state..."

    Euthanasia and assisted suicide (assisted death/whatever other name you'd like to give it) are two very different things.
    Euthanasia is when somebody takes the decision to end someone else's life and then carries out the action required in order to end their suffering.
    Assisted suicide is when the individual has made the decision to end their own life but requires some assistance in order to allow them to do so.

    I know this seems like arguing over semantics but in this case it is a very important difference and it is important not to confuse the two.

    Euthanasia does not involve a choice for the individual concerned, assisted death involves giving people the right to make their own choice.

    Assisted death shouldn't involve any direct action by another person; for example, when you go to the Dignitas clinic the system they use most often is a computer controlled intravenous system that is activated by the individual who has chosen to end their life. This has been designed in such a way that even the most severely disabled of people are able to activate it without assistance.
    The medical staff set up the equipment and attach the syringe but the individual still has to press the start button when they want to start the process.

    The preferred method of Mr Pratchett would be for his doctor to provide him with a lethal dose of opiates that he would then administer to himself while listening to music in his garden.

    This is something that is often overlooked in the debate, no-one is actually asking anyone else to kill them, they’re just asking for the right to end their life in as painless a way as possible. At the moment it is perfectly legal to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge or into the path of a train or any number of other methods that are distressing both to the individual committing suicide, all of those who witness the act or have to clear up after it as well as being very upsetting to the family and friends of the individual.
    If we could replace this with a system whereby you were able to be prescribed with a set dosage of opiates or other drugs that would end your life in a clean, pain free and much less stressful way then this would be of great benefit to everyone involved.

  • Comment number 14.

    I would always support a doctor who increased the dose of painkiller to give a patient relief in the knowledge that this would hasten death. I would uphold the decision to refuse treatment to prolong life made by an advanced directive.
    Legalised euthanasia for mentally competent adults worries me mainly in terms of the 'slippery slope'. I am old enough to remember the Abortion Act when the electorate was assured that it would not be 'abortion on demand' which in practice it is now. How long before a cash strapped state decides that this frail elderly person, disabled person etc is just too expensive and should be 'put to sleep'?

  • Comment number 15.

    Ray Gosling - I do not hold you responsible for the young man's death. You did not 'kill' him, you appropriated a means to reduce the suffering out of love and compassion. AIDs would have killed him...painfully and slowly.
    The debate that has followed is a very important one for society to tackle.
    The views and opinions of all the citizens of the United Kingdom should be taken into consideration - maybe it's time for a National Referendum on the subject?

  • Comment number 16.

    Having had an elderly colleague die an excruciatingly painful death a couple of years ago precisely because she was denied the right to die by the state in the US, I certainly think this debate should be had and the public made more aware of the issues surrounding euthanasia.

    I would certainly want the right to choose myself - in fact I already have and thank god that I have a dear friend that will respect my wishes regardless of what law may dictate should that time arrive. I do not want some religious fanatic trying to "save me" by allowing me to suffer indefinitely.

    @15 - a referendum is what is needed -I agree!

    Oli (Czech on Africa blog)

  • Comment number 17.

    My brother died after a long battle with lung cancer. He had the best possible palliative care in a fine home for the terminally ill. Irrespective of that he died a miserable, excrutiatingly painful death as the secondaries invaded key organs and nerves. It is not the case that 'good palliative care' can give a pain free, peaceful end. My brother lost the dignity of control over his own life with weeks of pain and suffering ahead until his body finally gave up and he died. There is no need for this - too many people let their ideology get in the way of their humanity and of course, it is their view, which gets trumpeted by the media and pandered to by politicians.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've got an idea. Lets not have a debate.

    The existing system works OK. If we are smart enough to admit that there probably isn't a perfect solution to this and that changing the law, this being the blunt instrument that it is, would almost certainly make matters worse why do we need to change it.

    What is the sudden rush of opinion which has enabled these commentators to push for these reforms. I hope that it isn't the increasing cost of caring for the elderly or infirm. If it isn't this maybe it is the very small number of desperate cases, again a really poor reason to reform as the law could bring the many into this area which at the moment is in the domain of only the few.

    I think this whole debate is merely the domain of those who haven't really thought hard enough about the potential consequences, if not what is the agenda here?

    As for Ray Gosling, I think that bringing this up on mainstream media in this way was far more Alan Partridge than Ghandi. Unbelievable that he is being cast by the foolish few as some sort of hero.

  • Comment number 19.

    Killing people is wrong. No matter what sort of killing we are talking about. Today we are debating about euthanasia for very ill people but tomorrow we will be discussing about killing people who just don't want to live for other reasons. There is risk that death will become so natural that there will be pression to increase scope of legal killing. Let's start to discuss what we can do to boost development of medicine. We must cure ill people, not kill them. Is there a lack of funds on scientific research? So just reduce the funds on military research and stop investing in weapon. Diseases are our real enemies so let's kill them not ourselves.

  • Comment number 20.

    #13 General_Jack_Ripper

    sorry I must take task on this, as far as I'm concerned there absolutely must be a Judicial Enquiry into every death, normally this is the coroner who records 'natural causes'. Where 'unnatural causes' is noted then there should be further legal enquirys.

    If for example a person was deemed to be 'non-compos mentis' then if no further relatives/dependents could be identified, the state assumes responsibility.
    An agent of state, acting 'in the interests of the client', could sign a death wish order.

    Another agent of state could, acting 'in the interests of the "death wish" order', apply the ultimate sanction (probably for financial reasons, ie. costs of keeping this ward of court alive in reduced national economic circumstances).

    This is the thin end of the wedge, it is bad enough that extraordinary rendition and state sanctioned torture are an accepted fact of the British Government and exporting Prisoners of War to certain death are acceptable in times past does not mean that I am prepared to allow my Government to get away with these kind of things.

    I Expect my Government to have the highest standards of moral authority, I Expect them to act with the highest public standards.

    I Do Not Expect my Government to have the right of Life or Death over anybody within it's domain, that is for the People and its Judiciary to decide, Not the Government.

    I have the utmost sympathy for people caught in the vortex but the ultimate decision must be yours and yours alone, that you will be judged must be a given, for all our protection.

  • Comment number 21.

    #20 BobRocket

    So your argument is that we shouldn't allow X because at some time in the future it may lead to Y.

    Sorry mate, that argument lacks any weight; you may as well say we're going to ban people from having children because some of them may be abused instead of just bringing in systems to protect children from abuse.


    "but the ultimate decision must be yours and yours alone"

    Did you even read my post ?

    Try reading it again and you'll see that this is exactly what people are arguing for, the right to make the decision, and to take the action themselves, this is the whole point.

    What has extraordinary rendition and torture got to do with this issue ?
    You're just trying to confuse the issue by throwing in totally unrelated issues and trying to make the moral comparison that because the government have done something bad then therefore this totally unrelated issue is also bad, again, that argument lacks any weight and is totally irrelevant to this issue being discussed.


    As I said above, people are already free to commit suicide in some of the most gruesome ways imaginable that cause distress to a great number of people, why would it be so bad to allow them to commit suicide but in a way that relieves pain, reduces the suffering of those involved and doesn't cause distress to other people ?

    At the moment we have a two tier system whereby anyone who can afford it can travel to Switzerland and enjoy the benefits of their enlightened legal system whereas anyone who can't afford it is left to suffer in agonising pain, maybe for years on end because of our own closed minded attitudes to death.

    As for the thin end of the wedge argument, assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940's yet they only have about 400 cases a year, including around 130 patients who come from other countries. The number of people using the service has been stable for over thirty years and no additional policies have been enacted allowing the government to start killing off those it finds expensive or difficult to treat.

    The question has to be why would this be any different in the UK ?

  • Comment number 22.

    Back in 1967 (I think!) the law changed to legalise abortion. At the time, there was debate about whether it would really be used only in the direst need. What if a woman was raped? Or if the pregnancy would result in the death of the women, the child, or both? The arguments were emotive and appealing and the law was passed. The control system meant that 2 doctors needed to sign consents and clinical need had to be established. You would think that this was all the safeguard that was needed. But fast-forward 40 years to now, and around 250,000 abortions are now carried out annually, mostly for the most trivial of reasons. The system of control has been weakened so much that abortion is treated as a form of birth control by some people! However the pro-life or pro-death arguments pan out, if we're going to think about euthanasia, maybe we need to look at how things have gone with abortions. The control system has failed. How do we know that the same thing won't happen again? We cetainly don't want thousands of old people carted off to clinics at the end of their lives for trivial reasons. It's the old 'give an inch and take a mile' argument. Once the law has been changed, people will push and push at the boundaries, and the goalposts will move. We do need to involve all points of view in the argument, and I include the religious leaders in this. Just because people don't like their argument is no reason to ignore it.

  • Comment number 23.

    What does government have to do with our most basic choices? Government is created for the purpose of handling the large matters; we give others power to make choices based on our need to focus on other things, like daily survival. They're supposed to let us get on with it. Suicide, assisted or otherwise, is a personal issue and only affects the family. I think an ethics panel would best suit this; the family should apply for a license and go before the panel. It is a personal choice, like all other health and life decisions.

  • Comment number 24.

    I was impressed by the recent consultation by the Public Prosecutor's Department on the subject of assisted suicide. Their proposals appeared to be heading in the right direction. I find it unacceptable should any group's religious beliefs be allowed to impinge upon the desires of a parallel and equal group of persons.

  • Comment number 25.

    I have read the comments placed on here and some seem to have grasped this 'thorny subject' with understanding, compassion and unconditional positive regard, while others I am sad to say have completely missed the point and have projected their wishes wants and desires onto the rest of us!

    The topic of 'Assisted Suicide' was once again mentioned on the bbc news this morning about the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Stramer has already published a draft, but will update following a public consultation. I don't know about you guys out there in the land of the commoner Joe+Joan Bloggs, but NO ONE HAS ASKED ME WHAT DO I THINK and as it happens I have VERY strong veiws on this subject considering it involves me! Dr John Wild (Not for Killing) projected his opinions this morning, then Lesley Close (Dignity in Dying) was aloud a short redress.

    I would not presumme to say how someone else lives their lives so long as they were not breaking the law and hurting anyone else so that being said why do others feel the need to project their wishes wants and desires onto me????
    NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO SPEAK FOR ME,OR TELL ME HOW I SHOULD LIVE OR DIE. As a nurse I remember on my first ward many years ago witnessing many deaths and having to lay out on average 5 people a week, yet there were other collegues on other wards who were lucky enough to go right through their training without having to do this. The reason I am sharing this with you is to give you insight into the fact that one way and another through the years I have experienced death on a professional level and a very personal level, I found my aunty dead in her house and she had been dead a week before she was found, I lost my dad at the tender age of 45 sudden heart attack, I nursed my grandmother with alziemers for 2yrs and saw her go down and down very slowly (which she did not want), then I nursed my mother with lung cancer and 3 strokes which is another horror story all of it's own.

    I can honestly say I have not seen one decent care home or nursing home that I would be happy to be in, and when the time comes that I can no longer care for myself, I DO NOT WANT ANYBODY ELSE TO LOOK AFTER ME, and by look after me I mean keep me hydrated fed,clean and pressure sore free. On another note, last year I had to have my GSD put to sleep after nursing him for 3 and a half years with CDRM, and when that day and time came my vet and all the nurses helped him pass very professionally and with dignity and without pain........

    So by now if you have managed to read thus far you must have gathered that speaking for myself personally I want to be allowed/assisted to die with dignity when I feel the time is right for ME! And I for one feel the law does need to be changed as I do not think I should have to go all the way over to Dignitas. Where is the dignity in making someone who is terminally ill travel out of their home enviroment to be able to have their wishes addered too? Tell me is this right in the so called 21 century of so called enlightendment???????

  • Comment number 26.

    #21 General_Jack_Ripper

    Sorry for taking so long to respond but others (those that we give authority to) have been weighing these issues

    You said

    'Try reading it again and you'll see that this is exactly what people are arguing for, the right to make the decision, and to take the action themselves, this is the whole point.'

    I have no problem with people making their own decisions and taking actions and responsibility for themselves.

    I also have no problem with person a. assisting person b. with the implementation of person b.'s own clear cut instructions.

    I see a valid defence as
    'I was asked to help by someone of sound mind who could not facilitate this themselves, I validated that this was indeed what they wanted, So in the end I helped them, I had no vested interest other than the interests of the sufferer themselves'

    I do want an enquiry (judicial if that is what it takes to get at the truth) at the end of it examining the motivations of the players involved.

    Each case is different, each must be Judged accordingly.

    The dead have no say after the fact, I don't want to see relatives slowly being bumped off in order for a serial killer to gain the inheritance.
    I'm sure Harold Shipmans defence would have been 'they asked me to do it'

    More to the point, the severely vulnerable, those deemed not to be of sound mind, are wards of the state, the state acts and speaks for them.
    Would you assist in their death, if the state, speaking for them, asked for your assistance (even if that just entailed turning a blind eye) ?

    Don't forget that before the war, unmarried mothers were routinely locked up in insane asylums.


  • Comment number 27.

    I think one problem with a decision to allow assisted suicide is that it won't just be a new medical option. I think this will take us in a new direction and 10, 20 or 30 years down the road this option may have evolved into something quite different.

    This is a huge decision to take now and no doubt it would get wrapped up in all manner of safeguards. But once established, adjusting it so suit a new set of circumstances where it could be seen to be desirable to 'tidy up' expensive hangers on will be a much easier.

    With health care budgets getting stretched to breaking point and life expectancy reaching 120 won't health advisors start suggesting, 'Isn't it time we moved things on a bit for this one? He's had a good innings.'

  • Comment number 28.

    Having seen people die in many different settings eg,Hospital, hospice nursing homes,care homes, family homes, friends home and my home. I feel qualified to say we are still not addressing this topic with enough compassion and unconditional positive regard for the person who is actually dying.

    The important thing to do is actually sit down and talk to the person in question ask them what THEY want then set up the care package necessary to enable their wishes wants and desires to be able to be executed accordingly. This may sound easy but in actual fact it is very difficult as emotion and belief very oftern cloud peoples perspective.

    As for comments made on here about peoples fears of what opening this particular can of worms will entail, I say to you OPEN YOUR EYES and stop living in cloud cuckoo land. Euthanasia has existed in our hospitals and hospices for years what do you think the diamorphine pump is all about, it is for pain relief but having seen many people 'pass' on one and still be in pain, I think it is well past time that we address peoples illfounded fears and help those that want it the grace and dignity to die pain free at a time and place of THEIR OWN CHOOSING!

    Those people who want to object find a new campaign, how about the people who are dying in unecessary wars, as I am sure if you ask them, they do not want to die!!! Just a thought!

  • Comment number 29.

    I understand , although not religious, how religious people may feel that life a precious thing and that we must therefore, value every drop. Yet, i feel that our pets have better treatment than our family in some cases. We feel the "kindest" thing to do for a pet that is suffering in great pain is to give a lethal jab,as the vet always says "its just like going to sleep" yet, we see suffering and pain in others and we dont have the same concepts. Is it right that our pets may be getting more dignity than us in death? I personally would wish that if i had no alternaive and couldn't end my own life due to the deterioration of my quality of life , someone would take it upon them to assist me. IT is a fine line to cross, i agree. But people already travel to die in dignity and that has worked. Is it that we, as the taxpayers, are not trusted to do as others have been doing in other countries?

  • Comment number 30.

    everyone has a right to there own views on living and dieing if it hurts no one else,as an old man i am lucky enough to lead an active and independent life,i go for walks,have a beer,a bet,enjoy my wife and grandad childern,when i can no longer do all these things with out help i think it is up to me and no one else to say time i was not here,like others it is not death i fear but the manner of dieing i do fear,not just for me but my loved ones why should they watch me suffer in dieing,with out being able to help me,those who do not like what i say fine by me but do not put your views or believes into my views please.

  • Comment number 31.

    #28, reflective1, I completely agree. Euthanasia occurs in the UK and it occurs unmonitored, unregulated, with no consistency and out of site. I know people who were terminally ill (and sound of mind) who requested help and were assisted in ending excruciating suffering by the administration and self administration of increased doses of (already prescribed) pain relief medication. This within the NHS. The present state of affairs is unacceptable for anybody who finds them self in such circumstances, in such pain that a therapeutic level of pain relief or a well meaning blessing or prayer does not help. A tightly regulated and consistent approach to helping people have some control over their last days is the way to bring openness and honesty to what happens every day in a hospital or hospice near you.
    If you had witnessed your beloved dying slowly in such agony that even contact with the bed sheets caused torturous pain, you would not object to her/his requests for help. If you have not witnessed such suffering but object to euthanasia, please go and proselytise elsewhere about matters which you know something about.

  • Comment number 32.

    I agree that the laws should be changed so people are given the right to decide themselves.
    Some may think what I'm about to say is silly but I think it's a fair point. Pets that are seen to be too ill are put down, so why can't we do the same for relatives or loved one who are suffering as much?
    Vets say keeping the animal alive is cruel, is it not as cruel to keep a human alive when they just want to end it?

  • Comment number 33.

    I agree also that the laws should be changed for people to have the right to die.
    This can quickly and humanely end a patients suffering allowing them to die with dignity, this can also shorten the grief and suffering of the patients loved ones, everyone has the right to decide if they should die.
    Most people would have their pets put down if they were suffering, this would be regarded as kindness so why can't the same kindness be given to humans?

  • Comment number 34.

    If the Chinese government, as with all governments, has the right to take life in cases of death penalty, the government of China (and the rest of the world, including the United States) should also seriously consider taking the moral responsibility of permitting euthanasia for people who are in constant pain and misery, and yet have no rational hopes of getting better. We all have the right to live and die in dignity: Li and the others qualified for euthanasia can choose the option to die from hunger strike or other ways, anyhow.Article in euthanasia in spanish:Eutanasia

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree that euthanasia should be resolved. In certain cases the patient dies very slowly and painfully: last stages of cancer or aids, stroke, fever. Sometimes it is possible to apply euthanasia and to reduce suffering of the patient.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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