Death and Why Not if that’s What He Wants

Tony Nicklinson - BBC photo

Here we go again. We have a man with locked-in syndrome who is physically unable to end his own life but has stated in absolute terms that he wants to die. He is lucid, determined and is seeking legal guidance regarding the consequences of ‘mercy killing’ and murder.

Why does he have to do this? Because he doesn’t want his wife to be indicted for murder and, of course, neither does she.

The one thing modern society seems able to do, is to raise philosophical issues of so-called ethics that have little to do with cases like this man’s wishes.

Apart from the crappy religite stance or the do-gooder hospice stance regarding the taking one’s own life or assisting someone to take his own life out of compassion, the law seems to throw up obstacles unnecessarily at every twist and turn.

There will never be one law that addresses every situation with cover all provisions. So there must be provision to shield cases like this one of Mr and Mrs Nicklinson against any possibility of criminal proceedings ensuing because of his death.

Of course, ideally there should not be any need to apply to the law seeking ‘guidance’ on whether someone will be charged with murder for aiding and abetting a suicide.

We are supposed to be living in a post-industrialised modern 21st century secular society where we are free to live our lives as we see fit. We all know the laws by which we live in a society and by and large we adhere to sensible laws. We do tend to be vocal against silly laws and this is yet another one. If we, as a society and as law givers, cannot distinguish between murder and assisted suicide in an instance like the Nicklinsons, then we have a poverty-ridden sense of morality, empathy and compassion. And we need to take a position and let our legislators know.

Why is it that if we want to end our lives because of – whatever reason – we come up against an antiquated, religiously motivated, outmoded law that calls such an action criminal?

Mind you, if you succeed at ending your life, there isn’t much anyone can do. In the case of a terminally ill, competent person with a compassionate carer/relative Dignitas is still available; for how long no one really knows.  And you still have to fund your fares and your accommodation while in Switzerland.

The point is that no one should have to go to a foreign country in order to take advantage of a provision that should be accessible in one’s own country.

The interminable interference in private, personal lives and deaths by governments legislating against anything they think will help their cause to be elected next time around is becoming intolerable.

Dr Philip Nitschke

Philip Nitschke in Australia has taken the cause of euthanasia up with gusto. He has written a book called The Peaceful Pill An e-handbook for those who need assistance with organising their own deaths. He refuses to stop campaigning for End of Life Choices.

He is one of my heroes.


5 comments on “Death and Why Not if that’s What He Wants

  1. Michelle B says:

    And if assisted suicide is murder, then already existing laws can be applied. However, there are cases where healthy people want to die because of depression, and in those cases, the ethics are much more murkier. Some depressions are treatable and the person often regains their motivation to live.

    However, all of this squeamishness that is part our culture, that death can’t be discussed, that it is in the hands of unproven gods, that it is too complicated to regulate is just silly. We need to move beyond this impasse.

    Not only do people have the right to die when they are lucid to decide that, they should be assisted in a humane way. Presently, though it is possible to pull it off, it is often done where the person is forced to die alone and in less than ideal situations. How awful is that? How much of an additional punishment do these terminally ill and significantly-handicapped individuals have to endure beyond their original illness?

  2. Michelle B says:

    I meant if the suicide turns out to be a real murder, that is, the dead person did not want to die, then already existing laws can be applied. But you knew that.

    • veronique says:

      Well yes. I mean the totality of murder laws won’t be changed. It is just a matter of being able to distinguish – I understood that Homo sapiens was intellectually capable.

      Sometimes, I wonder

  3. Dod says:

    Self-determination is a right in my book, that’s all there is to it. No power on earth or anywhere else can prevent the actions of an independent thinker.

    Now that many of us know the painless – perhaps even pleasant – and easily obtained method of terminating life (nitrogen-induced hypoxia) I imagine more people will rightly claim their right.

  4. […] know of severely disabled people like Tony Nickleson who want to die but no one will let him. Then we have the psychiatrists telling us that some […]

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