Assisted Suicide in the News – Again

You know whenever you come across polls, surveys and other methods that attempt to quantify the public’s attitudes to assisted suicide, euthanasia and just plain suicide, the majority opinion seems to be well in excess of the halfway mark.

YouGov has conducted an online poll of 4,437 British adults for the Westminster Faith Debates. This is a religious organisation commissioning a survey. Well done although I suggest they didn’t warm to the results.

Dr Anne Turner with her son - to Dignitas

Dr Anne Turner with her son – to Dignitas

‘Overall 70% of those questioned said they backed a change in the law.’

Interestingly in this survey 56% of those responders following Catholicism supported a change in the law. The percentage changes were upwards for those not so active in public adherence to their faith. Anglicans, Jewish and Sikh faiths had a majority in favour of a change in the law.

Typically a spokesman (this time for the Church of England) opined that such surveys were the wrong way to go about testing opinion on this issue. Presumably because the results didn’t match his expectations.

In April this year, another petitioner for the right to die with the help of a doctor has made a case that continues the legal challenge mounted by the late Tony Nicklinson.

The inability or refusal of the legal and political fraternity to address this issue head on seems to me to smack of the utter meanness that religion displays in its mantra that suffering is the way to god. It may be naïve to describe it in this way and no doubt I can be taken to task for being simplistic about religious faith and its aspirations. I don’t really give a damn.

Religiosity is simplistic in essence and its tenets are man-made injunctions both for and against specific behaviour. I hold no brook with religiosity of any stripe. Why should I? I am not religious. My point is that I should not be held prisoner to religious privilege in the political agenda nor should any medical attendant have to suffer threats or indictment for murder under a ridiculous archaic and exceedingly antiquated law.

This law was made under the thrall of religiosity and is really and truly antiquated in the 21st century. We have a population (at least in developed countries) where medical technology is able to increase longevity (not necessarily quality of life) with medications and palliative care et al.

Some of us do not want that sort of longevity. Some of us have had enough and some of us, like Nicklinson and Lamb, Purdy and others, want help to end our assessment of the travesty of our lives.

He has mounted a challenge to the law

Paul Lamb – He has mounted a challenge to the law

What is so hard about this? I really do not understand why UK law would consider the compassionate act of a medical person in administering a drug that would end such a life to be murder. It isn’t murder when a vet puts a dog, cat, horse, donkey, cow or any other animal under an anaesthetic and then administers a lethal dose to end its suffering. We are just animals after all. We like to think that because we have developed consciousness that we are special and ‘above’ other animals. Our physical bodies attest that this is not so. We are like every other mammal; we just don’t call each other ‘it’. With tears, love and regret we acquiesce to the induced death of our best loved domestic companions. We grieve, sometimes for years if not decades. If only we could do this with our best friends and family easily with no religious angst.

It is over ten years since the first Briton went to Dignitas to end his life.

Ten years of over 180 Britons having to pay thousands of pounds to go to a Switzerland-based clinic, located in an industrial estate, to end the lives that they consider intolerable. And, make no mistake, it is they who know their lives are intolerable, not some granny state. The extra cost of taking a family member as support for the end of their life is substantial. The Act governing this was made in 1961. Those travelling with the patient could be indicted. So far no one has. That’s not quite good enough They have to be legally immune from arrest as accessories.

They have had to make this decision well before their self-assessed use-by-date because they have not been able to access their own country’s NHS system to find the compassion and willingness to help them through this final hurdle. Why? Maybe it is partly because there is an established religion in this country. There may be a fear of funds for politicking being withdrawn. Maybe big pharma has something to do with it. But I doubt it. 180 people is hardly worth the effort. Many more would not have the funds to enable such a Dignitas visit. So let’s quadruple the number just for fun. 720 people out of a population of some 55 million. And the sky will fall in?? Our moral values will fail – you have to be joking!!

Britain likes to see itself as civilised but I question this. Especially in relation to assisted suicide, the shilly shallying over acceptable criteria to employ for such a euthanasia act is quite pathetic.

In Australia there is currently a window of opportunity::

‘there’s a bill about to be introduced into NSW State Parliament that would give patients the legal right to request a humane, medically-assisted death (voluntary euthanasia). This option includes robust legal safeguards and would only apply to individuals suffering from painful terminal illness.’

It still doesn’t go far enough but it is a start. The Northern Territory passed an Act which was overturned federally because the Northern Territory was ‘just’ a territory and deemed unable to make its own laws. So a mealy mouthed religite conservative put up a bill overturning the Territory’s bill after only one or two people had made use of it.

This quote from the lobby group GetUp says much the same thing I have blogged about before:

‘ … too many Australians choose to end their suffering by the only legal means available to them. Options such as ending life support treatment, cutting off food and water or suiciding, often violently. These options are distressing, prolong suffering and cause further grief and anxiety. They can also push family, friends and medical support away when they’re needed most.’

Can we all please be civilised in the proper sense of the word and leave superstition, religiosity and misplaced pro-life quasi-arguments behind?

People who have made a decision to die because life has become intolerable need help not hindrance.

For those of you who haven’t seen The Barbarian Invasions

I suggest you watch it.


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