Euthanasia, Assisted Dying is back on the Table

It is amazing how long supposedly progressive and developed societies take to change, amend or even tweak legislation that devolves any more power to Joe Public. Our societies are becoming more not less restrictive. The ancient Greeks would be horrified with our current do’s and don’ts enabled by our legislature and enforced by our police and judiciary. This is the Guardian article and yes!

Lord Falconer headed the Commission

The Commission on Assisted Dying was set up in September 2010 and Demos has made available a 400 odd page report on its findings and recommendations here. Its terms of reference were:

· to investigate the circumstances under which it should be possible for people to be assisted to die

· to recommend what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be  assisted to die

· to identify who should be entitled to be assisted to die

· to determine what safeguards should be put in place to ensure that vulnerable  people are neither      abused nor pressured to choose an assisted death

· to recommend what changes in the law, if any, should be introduced

Now I think they are very carefully worded aims and the Commission has been very circumspect in its recommendations and to my mind did not go far enough. After all, surveys of the public and of medical practitioners show a very substantial majority in favour of euthanasia being legalised. The Commission was far too accommodating to the religite mores that seem to abound on this island.

This is from the wiki article

 Even though polling in Great Britain reveals that “80% of British citizens and 64% of Britain’s general practitioners” are in favour of euthanasia being legalised, Parliament has refused to pass any laws of (sic) the issue.[4] In 1997, the British Parliament voted 234-89 to defeat the seventh attempt to legalize the act. The Church of England view is that “physician assisted suicide is incompatible with the Christian faith and should not be permitted by civil law.”

Seven attempts!! Good grief. When will these parliamentary representatives learn? Those of us who are part of that public majority are rightly annoyed that our parliamentary representatives are not voting to reflect our wishes. The toothless CofE still seems to have its sticky fingers into our legislative decision making. I suppose the 26 appointed bishops see themselves as arbiters of moral virtue in this island regardless of the increase in atheism in this island.

So far as I am concerned, the Commission’s recommendations are not comprehensive enough. Not that it will matter to me personally. I will exit this life when I am good and ready thank you very much.

It is a shame that Pratchett is not seen as qualifying because he has more than 12 months to live with his dementia, nor is Tony Nicklinson who suffers from locked-in syndrome and will live for more than 12 months. So, from my perspective, the recommendations actually don’t progress this issue very far at all. The unconscionable cruelty and neglect for people’s wishes still exists.

This is from the BBC’s article regarding the Commission’s recommendations:

The commission has been quite clear that a person first of all would have to be terminally ill to be considered for assisted suicide under its proposals.

 The group has defined that as a patient who has less than 12 months to live.

 It said that they should also be acting under their own steam and not be mentally impaired in any way.

 In practice this means that dementia patients would not be eligible, including the author Sir Terry Pratchett, who helped to fund the commission, as those in the final year of the condition would not be considered mentally fit enough.

 Nor would a person who has a significant physical impairment, such as locked-in syndrome, as they would have longer than 12 months to live under normal circumstances.

 But a cancer patient with a prognosis of nine months would be eligible, if he or she met the other criteria.

This is tame stuff indeed. However, the religites have come out in force denouncing anything to do with suicide, assisted or not, as immoral and insupportable under their god’s supposed laws. These laws come, of course, in an ancient book, cobbled together with salient parts omitted by various rulers, by a group of illiterates in ancient lands purporting to be transcribing the word of their god. The rest of us call this fantasy visual and auditory schizophrenia, while the religites call it touched by god. Touched is right!.

I don’t have a problem with organisations like Care Not Killing, emotive though their choice of name is. Neither should they have a problem with

Terry Pratchett good solid citizen

Terry Pratchett’s Dignity in Dying or

Philip Nitschke’s Exit International or a myriad of other Voluntary Euthanasia societies worldwide. People who want to die need the assurance that those assisting them will not be treated as criminals. So yes, the law does need changing. It needs more than the Commission has recommended though. Poor Andrew Colgan

Andrew Colgan by himself

(and how many others) had to travel to Switzerland to Dignitas to end the life he did not want to continue with. And this is the wonderful Terry Pratchett.

It is not that long ago that suicide was a crime in itself. If you failed in your attempt to kill yourself you were charged with a crime and incarcerated. It wasn’t that long ago that having an abortion was a criminal offence. Slowly, very slowly, we are getting rid of religite influence in secular affairs but it is not quick enough for me. Religion’s perceived privileged role, now aided and abetted by the Tories in the sphere of education, is galling to a growing number of us. As well it should.

There is the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society that keep trying to increase public awareness in this country; I wish they had more members and I wish more people spoke out publicly.

Come on you guys, either agree or add a comment. There are so many opinions, surely you have one.


7 comments on “Euthanasia, Assisted Dying is back on the Table

  1. Anonymous says:

    This article show the gap between reasoned thinking, with the suffering and their families in mind, and the immovable position of most religious groups. Religious views should not be allowed to force others to suffer at the end of their lives if they are not afraid to take action themselves.
    I think there is something a bit sinister about the idea that suffering is also part of our gift from god and has to be taken as such. Surely the avoidance of unnecessary human suffering should be a common goal between religious and not.

    • Veronique says:

      Dear Anonymous – there is something more than a bit sinister about religion per se. The suffering aspect of god’s gift is pure Roman Catholicism – this is what Christopher Hitchens took Mother Teresa to task for. That she imposed her view of suffering as the way to god rather than the relieving of suffering in her so-called hospices where patients were chained to mattress-less beds with no lavatory facilities is more than a little ‘off’.

      To be addicted to suffering rather than to the freedom to choose and to want to impose that suffering on everyone else is what gets me up in arms. No group believing in some tenets of irrational belief that have nothing to do with other people has the right to impose that irrationality on anyone let alone communities at large.

      The ramifications of encouraging religious groups to have input into any legislation that impacts on wider and secular communities is just wrong.

  2. Rossi Lyons says:

    Perhaps if the semantics were different – lose the term euthanasia which sounds like putting down an animal – and replaced with a more compassionate term, attitudes might change.
    We can only hope. I’m with you Ronnie. I too want to choose the time of my going and not endanger my loved ones in the process. Not an issue just yet I am pleased to say

    • Veronique says:

      I think you may well be correct Rossi. I am happy to lose ‘euthanasia’ and call it assisted dying. I wonder if the word ‘dying’ is worrying to people.

      Euphemisms can only go so far really. It is like the change I mentioned in another post about manic depression and bi-polar. Bi-polar doesn’t describe the behaviour as well as the older term. Maybe it is just me.

      No:-) it isn’t an issue with me just yet. I have realised I can now say I will be seventy next year. Gosh!! Sounds strange – I am sure I will grow into it.

  3. Rosie says:

    In December I was a frequent visitor to a nearly 90 year old who died after almost a week in hospital with dementia and multiple infections. Palliative care was available and administered, but still my friend had repeated periods of extreme distress. What struck me was the possible fear of the staff that they might cause death rather than that they might relieve distress [of the patient and the family]. My next thought was that the people who train the staff are scared too – all of them scared of the power they have and the dangers of litigation and, frankly, of being honest and true to their compassionate selves. How often do we hear someone say: I wouldn’t let an animal go through that sort of prolonged dying?
    I know we are meant to be a more sophisticated form of animal, but it does seem upside down thinking that the penalty of that advanced intelligence is to suffer when it is not necessary.
    Or is it simply that we have not come to terms with the difference between the process of dying and death which is final, and when and whether we want personal responsibility for narrowing the gap or to be able to rely on others to accept such a responsibility and assist in that process?
    Like you, V, I hope to take the matter into my own hands, and hope I will be able to do that here in Scotland openly and honestly rather than dying deceitfully.

  4. Rosie says:

    A further comment which may no longer be true, but I remember an occasion of attempted suicide on the premises where I worked in Fife in the mid-90’s. I was informed that the charge against the person was of Breach of the Peace – whose peace was breached, I wondered? And still wonder…

    • Veronique says:

      Good grief!! Breach of The Peace? What an appalling way to categorise the incredible feelings that go with making that decision to die. However, my understanding is that attempted suicide is no longer treated as a criminal offence or ! a breach of the peace !.

      I agree that, all things being equal, the vast majority of us will savour life up until the very last.
      However that last is a time that everyone must have the freedom to choose. The litigious capacity has to be removed and other measures put in place to protect the assisters.

      The penalty to suffer is that which has been superimposed on us by religious mores, I am afraid. Nothing else.

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