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← Assisted dying and ‘morality’

Barry Pearson's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Barry Pearson

I am a paid-up member of "Dignity in Dying", so I obviously favour the availability of assisted dying / assisted suicide. According to a survey, over 80% of people in the UK (over 70% of religious people and over 90% of non-religious people) favour a change to the law to permit assisted dying.

"Care not killing" is an organisation that lobbies to prevent any change to the law. Their membership are: Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain & Ireland, British Council of Disabled People, Christian Medical Fellowship, The Church of England, RADAR (The Disability Network)

The interesting members are the disability groups. Disabled people often oppose assisted dying. (Remember the discussion that followed Terry Pratchett’s valuable programme on the BBC: Debbie Purdy was in favour of change, while another disabled person was opposed).

Their logic appears strange: they claim it devalues the life of disabled people, and some see it as a slippery slope. In fact, it is perhaps the one case in UK law where it is illegal to help a disabled person to achieve what an able person could achieve; normally the law expects that disabled people are helped to achieve what able people can achieve!

But currently the law says that, (in spite of suicide being legal for the last 50 years), except where you "do it yourself", the state controls your life. It isn't yours to fully control. But permitting assisted dying says "it is up to the person living the life to determine its value, not anyone else". After all, in effect, not wanting assisted dying can and typically should be interpreted by default as "I want to live". This doesn't devalue life; it just says who is the arbiter of the value of life: the person living it.

Debbie Purdy is a hero in this discussion. She wants to have the option for the future; then she can stop worrying, and live life as well as possible now. The option in future gives peace of mind now. It can typically delay death, because it doesn't have to be done while the person is capable of "do it yourself". Most people with the option never take it up.

At the moment, people go to Dignitas to die, and then relatives are questioned. After the death! Wouldn't it be better to use UK laws, and have the appropriate checks done before death?

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 12:09:39 UTC | #856533