I freely admit I didnât watch the Terry Pratchett documentary on the Right to Die. At the last minute I voted in favour of a quiet glass of wine with Mr G in the setting sun. It seemed an altogether healthier way to spend my time.
I have nothing against suicide; it is your life, if you want to waste it, for whatever reason â and my own Father did â then go ahead. I have no problem with capital punishment as it happens, even if itâs not a strictly Libertarian view.
I do have a major problem with assisted suicide. The name for a start, disingenuous, like joy-riding, it strives to make a potentially murderous situation sound somehow vaguely normal, the sort of things normal families might do. How could âassistingâ someone possibly be wrong?
Iâll tell you how. I have a close friend, a very dear friend, who has been down this road, not of her own choice. I have watched the emotional devastation, the very real tearing apart of normal, loving feelings. It is, quite simply, a totally, utterly, completely, wrong thing to ask of someone who loves you â and who might reasonably expect you to love them in return.
How can they refuse? There you are, patently in pain, facing death, wringing their emotions inside out with every minute of the day â and YOU decide, you, not them â âIâve had enough of this, I demand my right to die, and because Iâm now infirm, that becomes your responsibilityâ.
So the very person who has cared for you enough, loved you to pieces, wiped your backside, given up their life and ignored their family for months on end as you slid into this terribly sad terminal illness, now has to shoulder an additional burden.
They have to make you a cup of tea, gently lift a digestive biscuit to your lips â âyou must try to eat something Dadâ â and then diplomatically slip out of the room, sit down in front of the computer, and start Googling Dignitas.
Right there, thereâs another euphemism. Dignitas my left foot. A cold grey concrete building in Zurich. See picture above.
When theyâve found Dignitas, they have to arrange the bank transfers â Dignitas donât do credit, believe me. The air line tickets â two tickets to Zurich, just one return please. Just me and a little tin of ashes. The child care arrangements, itâs hardly a fun day out for all the family. The lies to the neighbours â you canât turn round and say youâre taking Dad to Dignitas for the day can you? The Doctor to come in and sign the certificate to say you are of sound mind, and have a terminal illness. Whilst they wonder if perhaps he should be certifying them for agreeing to do this.
Cold, hard, formal arrangements; because itâs your right to impose this on them isnât it? Just when they are breaking their heart because you will soon be dead anyway â just not soon enough for you. Not the way you want to die. So you make it their problem, and sit back, munch on your digestive and contemplate your ârightsâ.
Iâm not going to get into the slippery slope arguments, Iâve rehashed them too many times on this blog, the Mental Capacity Act that gives government apparatchiks the right to decide that it is time for you to go, and âorderâ your Doctors to starve and dehydrate you to death.
There is another slippery slope that no one ever seems to mention.
âRights-creepâ. If it is your right to die, at a time of your choosing, if it is your right to die in the manner of your choosing â for how long do you think it will remain as âdignifiedâ as Dignitas? (Thereâs an oxymoron.)
Itâs your right innit? Itâs the way you want to go â half time in the front stalls of the Arsenal-Liverpool cup final, sod the people sitting next to you. Surrounded by woad painted new age travellers in the mud of Glastonbury? ââhe always had a sense of humourâ. Perhaps youâd prefer the main banking hall of Lloydâs â after all they lost you your entire pension. Life-time mariner? Fancy being target practice for the Navy Seals?
You canât arrange it, not you, you canât even lift a cup of hemlock to your lips â no, your nearest and dearest will have to make the arrangements.
Brr,brrr â âHello, can you tell me, is it possible to arrange a private box at the Royal Ballet? My Dad wants me to bump him off thereââ¦â¦..Theyâll have to bring back âJimâll fix itâ to help arrange it all.
Once youâve got the ârightâ under sub-section 164 (b) of the new Legally Sanctioned Murder Act 2012 â that sounds better than assisted suicide! â to force the person who has loved you so deeply all these years that you now âappointâ them the lucky person who gets to legally murder you when it pleases you, society can hardly deny you the little old right to go out in style.
Have you been to a good funeral lately? The massed brass band playing Danny Boy, or Knees Up Mother Brown if you want. The Teddy Bears, and flowers lining the footpath, good grief, donât imagine there will be anything dignified about some peopleâs request as to where and when they want to go.
Itâs all very well breaking TV rules and showing one loving, dignified, exit ala Dignitas after the watershed. Itâs all very well imagining that this will go no further than the nice Doctor giving you a Mickey Finn nightcap. Itâs all very well Debbie Purdy and her sad situation being wheeled out yet again to comment â I got in trouble before for saying it was handy she was on wheels.
Hard cases donât make good law.
If you think you are going to find yourself in a situation where you may not be able to drive up Snowdonia with a length of hosepipe one day; if you really canât face the pain, or whatever it is that ails you â then you have the perfect right to take your own life, quietly, in the manner of your choosing, when you can, how you can.
Donât force your family to behave as though killing you is a perfectly normal thing to do. It isnât. You owe them better than that â especially if they are your children, or partner.
The bureaucratic nightmare that is a âdignifiedâ journey to Dignitas or its equivalent shouldnât have to be trod by anyone you love. They have rights too, and emotional blackmail shouldnât be allowed to strip them of those rights.
No, I donât particularly care about the one or two people who can be shown to possibly be facing a painful and undignified death. There is an end to it â itâs called death.In the meantime there is palliative care.
I care immensely about the pressure that will be put on thousands of perfectly innocent and decent people whose entire lives will be irrevocably changed and overshadowed by the turmoil inherent in having to kill you simply because they loved you.