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Saturday, 8 November 2014

The end of life.

Quite a number of recent posts have been on the topic of abortion - the deliberate killing of an unborn human being.  This evening, I want to go to the other end of the Journey of Life spectrum, and look at another emotive issue that is currently very topical - assisted dying (aka assisted suicide/euthanasia).

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;" states Shakespeare's heroine figure in his play Romeo and Juliet.   So, whatever name is given, and has been given, over recent decades, the common denominator, in this situation, is the deliberate taking of a fully adult life, for whatever reason.  By the way, I do not propose going into a discussion on etymology, especially with regard to the strict definition of euthanasia (from the Greek!).

Yesterday, the UK House of Lords debated the Bill that has been brought forward by Lord Charlie Falconer.   This Bill seeks to “enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life”.   Of course, there have been a number of attempts to legislate in favour of the right to end one's own life in recent years - at least one previous one also being in the name of Charlie Falconer.   Thankfully, each one has been defeated, but the assisted suicide and/or euthanasia supporters keep coming back with the sort of determination that one often wishes was seen in other areas of politics!

Often, some recent high-profile case, in which there has been a lot of public sympathy for the person who wishes to end his/her own life, is used by the 'suicide lobby' (to use a convenient shorthand expression!).  One that may well have been raised in the House of Lords, yesterday, is that of Brittany Maynard, the young woman from the USoA who travelled from her home state of California, to the state of Oregon, in order to legally kill herself!   However, emotional cases do not lead to good legislation!   Thankfully, for every Brittany, there are hundreds of others who do not take the 'easy' way out!  There were many who shared their stories on social media, but I didn't notice their stories receiving the same publicity in the main-stream media!

However, away from the individual cases.  What about the general picture?  It is interesting that all of the professional medical bodies are opposed to the sort of legislation that Charlie Falconer and, in the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie, wish to see enacted.   However, that is not really surprising! Do assisted suicide supporters really expect doctors and nurses to be able to assist the suicide of one patient, then go on to care for a similar patient who wants to live, without this having an effect on their ethics or their empathy? Do they realise that this reduces the second patient’s will-to-live request to a mere personal whim—perhaps, ultimately, one that society will see as selfish and too costly? How does this serve optimal health care, let alone the integrity of doctors and nurses who have to face, and live with, the fact that they helped other human beings kill themselves?

Indeed, a report in The Telegraph, on Thursday, stated that "One in 10 British people believe elderly people should be offered a “reward” if they opt for assisted suicide, new polling suggests."  Now, apart from the fact that, if the 'reward' is only to be offered posthumously, it is going to be of little satisfaction to the recipient, why should anyone wish to be rewarded in this way?  By the way, the suggested 'reward'  was "a martini and a medal"!  I'm teetotal; and I would prefer to wear a medal on my own chest - while standing up!   The report continued: "Anti-euthanasia campaigners said the finding was “chilling” evidence of deep-seated prejudice towards older people from a small but significant minority of the population."   Chilling, indeed.

What is needed is more, and improved, palliative care.  The Hospice movement does a wonderful job - I know, I have visited enough of their establishments! - but it is limited in its scope because, as a charity, it depends on the donations of supporters.  As I type, I am thinking just how far the latest demand from the EU - £1.7 billion - would go to providing that desired level of care.  However, all that will happen is that it will be wasted on an already corrupt and bloated administration!

The debate, yesterday, went on for longer than was expected, and there was no formal division.  However, it is reported that the majority of those who spoke did so in opposition to the Bill.  For this, at this stage, many of us are truly thankful.

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