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Assisted dying and ‘morality’

Without a doubt the most traumatic experience in my recent memory is that of watching my mother slowly wither away in a hospital bed a victim, not only of cancer, but of our society’s morally weak standpoint on assisted dying.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the issue.

Why is it that when you ask people, the majority are in agreement with helping a suffering person to die? Society however, appears to say otherwise by making it illegal. Where does this come from? People throughout the ages have always known that it is the right thing to help a suffering creature and end its pain. Animals are afforded this most humane of acts without question. As my uncle commented once, ‘I wouldn’t let a dog suffer like that!’ Indeed, dogs are put down merely for a damaged limb let alone the myriad number of chronic and deadly illnesses that exist. Science has shown us that we are as closely related to any animal as they are to each other...

Having watched Terry Pratchett’s public battle to be granted the right to determine his own end through his public lecture and recent documentary, I could only feel respect for those people filmed at the way they were able to remain human on their own terms, despite the slight twinge of discomfort at watching a man go through the process of quietly terminating himself, his hand held by his wife.

I work in the NHS and see many nursing staff shift uncomfortably when they are obliged to place a patient on the ‘End of life pathway’, as it is so perfunctorily labelled. It’s the process that involves giving an obviously dying person a morphine pump and removing all life support. The family are then forced to sit in a vigil at the side of their loved one and suffer the agony of watching them desiccate and become more corpse-like as each day progresses. It took eight nerve-crushing days for the cancer to finally destroy my mum, with different family members taking shifts to sit by her side. I missed my mother’s passing as did her mum and one of my brothers.

I say that the current way we treat people at the end of their life is wrong and inhumane. The mere application of pain-killing drugs, which offer no guarantee in terms of experiencing no suffering – indeed pain isn’t the only way a mind can suffer – is a feeble gesture. The anthropocentric bias on our decision making in this area leads me to the conclusion that we are forcibly relieved of our basic human integrity and dignity at the end, because of the teachings of monotheism. Apparently only god can take a life, so we therefore let diseases run their course on people and force untold misery on families and carers and the sufferers of the illnesses in question themselves. Legal problems are often cited where people may take advantage of the law to allow them to kill a relative without their true consent in order to gain in some way. My feeling with this scenario is that this would be the rare exception rather than the rule, and why should the majority suffer for the actions of a small minority? Surely this is where the law should really come in, to defend our right to die by dealing with these perversions?

Can anyone give me a reason that does not stem from a fear of the divine why we should not allow this to become law?



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