Tony Nicklinson, Paul Lamb, Noel Martin and many others are fighting for the right to assisted suicide.
Under current UK law, anybody helping someone to die can be charged with manslaughter. Is this to be considered correct?
I’m not one for sitting on this fence so allow me to answer my own question. Of course it isn’t.
Firstly, I think the basic emotive terminology should be addressed. ‘Committing suicide’ has distinct overtones of criminality. Is suicide a crime in this country? If not, why is the antiquated term ‘commit’ still associated with it?
Secondly, a considerable majority of the public support, with sufficient safeguards, an individual’s right to die. In a supposedly democratic system, why are paid public servants permitted to disregard that?
Take this hypothetical situation. A person you love has deteriorated in health over many years and spends each day in considerable pain. He or she willingly communicates a secure desire to die to end intolerable physical or mental anguish.
Now imagine he or she underwent all that but was incapable of offering any guarantees. You were fully aware of the incessant pain before you but couldn’t present a document detailing a request to end the life.
Finally, what if something happened in an instant? The person you are closest to is terribly injured in an accident. He or she is in terrible agony and is screaming and crying for you to help. There is no long term hope of reprise and no assistance is on the way.
If any of the above happened to you, would you be wiling to reach out your hands and kill that person? Whether by an injection, smothering, breaking the neck or even strangulation? Could you bear to feel the pulse of your love fading through, and by, your own fingers?
You could spend the rest of your life in prison branded an evil and heartless murderer, demonised by your friends, family and the public. Could you do it?
For me, unequivocally and unhesitatingly, yes.
If I knew that was what was wanted, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment. For some people, the loss of a partner means the end of a meaningful life anyway but this is not the case for all. If someone I cared about was in horrible pain, I would do whatever was necessary without consideration of the consequences. The current law doesn’t take human compassion into account.
In recent cases though, judges have ruled in favour of the accused parties with prosecutors offering no contest. However, the rise of common sense still doesn’t negate the existence of the laws.
Arguments against the right to die always tend to use the more explosive term of ‘assisted suicide’. I don’t know if this is a reflection on the strength of feeling or an attempt at propaganda but it does seem strange. Concerns on specific guarantees, suspicions about relatives and religious ideals are all brought to the fore.
Guarantees can usually be provided. Unless a person is brain dead (in which case in the UK, life is ended anyway) some communication is usually possible. Oh dear, but the person didn’t actually sign the paper? Well, that soldier who had his hands blown off in Iraq can’t claim benefits for the same reason.
Suggesting that relatives might be in it for personal or financial gain, or just to relieve themselves of a burden (whether the person in question believes him or herself to be one) can be of course be genuine. Again, the safeguards are important here but surely some degree of trust must be applied.
Now we deal with religious concerns. Don’t be so bloody silly. Now we’ve dealt with religious concerns.
External ‘moralistic’ debates are all very well and good but to me if boils down to one aspect. If you’re not directly and personally involved in the situation, it’s not your business. If I was in Paul Lamb’s position now, I’d conduct myself with far less politeness than he has. It’s my life, not yours, so butt out! How dare you presume to tell me, my loved ones and my doctors (again, the majority support the practice and a change in the law) how my suffering should end.
I would kill, murder if you wish, anyone I loved who wanted me to. Taking it a stage further, could I do it to a total stranger in the same position? This really only applies to the third situation above where pain is caused by an instant but my answer stays the same. Yes I would.
I know a lot of people view me as a wishy washy liberal and a liberal I certainly am. There is nothing mind you that’s wishy washy about my convictions and if there’s something I can do to stop terrible human suffering, I will, even at the possible cost to myself.
A final hypothetical for you then. Your loved one is in extreme agony having been partly crushed by a falling building. He or she is screaming uncontrollably and the only way you can stop the pain is to press a trigger which will bring the rest of the rubble crashing down fatally onto both of you. Whether you can see or touch each other is irrelevant but could you actually do it? End your own life to kill another and end the pain? There may be no further consequences to face but could you take this step nevertheless? I think you know my answer.
Just because we are alive does not mean we are living. Human dignity and quality of existence are essential. We don’t choose when we are born but we should be allowed choose when we die.
As people we care for each other. Remember, it’s called human kind.