I freely admit I didn’t 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 – and my own Father did – then go ahead. I have no problem with capital punishment as it happens, even if it’s 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 ‘assisting’ someone possibly be wrong?
I’ll 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 – 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 – and YOU decide, you, not them – “I’ve had enough of this, I demand my right to die, and because I’m now infirm, that becomes your responsibility”.
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 – ‘you must try to eat something Dad’ – and then diplomatically slip out of the room, sit down in front of the computer, and start Googling Dignitas.
Right there, there’s another euphemism. Dignitas my left foot. A cold grey concrete building in Zurich. See picture above.
When they’ve found Dignitas, they have to arrange the bank transfers – Dignitas don’t do credit, believe me. The air line tickets – two tickets to Zurich, just one return please. Just me and a little tin of ashes. The child care arrangements, it’s hardly a fun day out for all the family. The lies to the neighbours – you can’t turn round and say you’re 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 it’s your right to impose this on them isn’t it? Just when they are breaking their heart because you will soon be dead anyway – 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 ‘rights’.
I’m not going to get into the slippery slope arguments, I’ve 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 ‘order’ your Doctors to starve and dehydrate you to death.
There is another slippery slope that no one ever seems to mention.
‘Rights-creep’. 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 – for how long do you think it will remain as ‘dignified’ as Dignitas? (There’s an oxymoron.)
It’s your right innit? It’s the way you want to go – 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? –‘he always had a sense of humour’. Perhaps you’d prefer the main banking hall of Lloyd’s – after all they lost you your entire pension. Life-time mariner? Fancy being target practice for the Navy Seals?
You can’t arrange it, not you, you can’t even lift a cup of hemlock to your lips – no, your nearest and dearest will have to make the arrangements.
Brr,brrr – ‘Hello, can you tell me, is it possible to arrange a private box at the Royal Ballet? My Dad wants me to bump him off there’……..They’ll have to bring back ‘Jim’ll fix it’ to help arrange it all.
Once you’ve got the ‘right’ under sub-section 164 (b) of the new Legally Sanctioned Murder Act 2012 – that sounds better than assisted suicide! – to force the person who has loved you so deeply all these years that you now ‘appoint’ 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, don’t imagine there will be anything dignified about some people’s request as to where and when they want to go.
It’s all very well breaking TV rules and showing one loving, dignified, exit ala Dignitas after the watershed. It’s all very well imagining that this will go no further than the nice Doctor giving you a Mickey Finn nightcap. It’s all very well Debbie Purdy and her sad situation being wheeled out yet again to comment – I got in trouble before for saying it was handy she was on wheels.
Hard cases don’t 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 can’t face the pain, or whatever it is that ails you – then you have the perfect right to take your own life, quietly, in the manner of your choosing, when you can, how you can.
Don’t force your family to behave as though killing you is a perfectly normal thing to do. It isn’t. You owe them better than that – especially if they are your children, or partner.
The bureaucratic nightmare that is a ‘dignified’ journey to Dignitas or its equivalent shouldn’t have to be trod by anyone you love. They have rights too, and emotional blackmail shouldn’t be allowed to strip them of those rights.
No, I don’t 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 – it’s 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.