Sunday, July 12, 2009

Can 'Assisted Suicide' ever be right?

Were I to have been a member of the House of Lords, I would not have supported Lord Falconer's attempt to relax the law on assisted suicide last week. And that was before I read Baroness Campbell's powerful article in today's telegraph. Read it, and then decide. You might find that those problems that were getting you down are not quite as bad as you thought.

Its easy to agree with Lord Falconer that people who help others carry through their wishes to end life should not be guilty of breaking the law, and running the risk of a long stretch in jail. At least its easy if you relate the argument to an individual, like Debbie Purdy, an MS sufferer who campaigns for the right to assisted suicide. Why should she have to suffer a painful death if she doesn't want to, and if she needs assistance from people who love her to travel to an establishment that will end her life, why should they risk jail simply for helping her? The problem is that changing the law for Debbie, (and others in the same situation) would have immeasurably wider effects on society in general. Lets set aside the religeous aspect of this. Many elderly people already feel that they are a burden on their families, and know that by continueing to live, they will become an ever greater burden, and use up all that money they had dreamt of passing on to the next generations. No-one can calculate what extra pressure legalising assisted suicide would put upon these people. And its no point saying that safeguards would be incorporated into any new law. There was much talk of safeguards when abortion was legalised - and now over 200,000 babies are aborted in the UK every year.

That's the thing about being an MP that frightens me most. Its the issues about which there is no straight forward. But you should read what Baroness Campbell has to say before deciding. Her speech last week was thought to be very influential in persuading their Lordships not to change the law.


Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Your comment "There was much talk of safeguards when abortion was legalised - and now over 200,000 babies are aborted in the UK every year" -> struck home.

That you can recall that such 'safeguards' meant zilch means one thing to me: Wales/UK needs you in Parliament to give perspective to such debates as legalized 'assisted suicide'.

May your wish to be an MP be granted.

frankie said...

I totally disagree with you Glyn on both issues.

I firmly believe that it is a woman's right to decide without any outside influence, especially other people's religious interference, to seek help to abort an unwanted pregnancy. No woman, and I mean NO woman, makes this decision lightly. If only in our British society we would
discuss more openly sexual issues with young people and earlier in their education, we would not have the appalling teenage pregnancy statistics, and the high rates of abortion.

As far as assisted suicide is concerned, I fully advocate this. Once again, it is really up to the individual concerned, for whatever reason they find their life too intolerable to continue - then we should do all we can to help.

I get absolutely furious with religious groups when they interfere with this argument by pushing their beliefs to the fore thinking that they are absolutely right because they say their God is right in all things. Frankly - it is none of their business. The decision to search for help to die lies with the individual concerned and the immediate family, and no-one else. The family should just offer support, love and understanding. Again - No-one and I mean NO-ONE makes this decision lightly.

I have been in the medical profession since 1968, and have seen many deaths, and many desperate people wanting to be put out of their misery. I would have helped them if I could.

What we do in this country is hasten their deaths by drugs such as morphine and diamorphine, by quietly increasing the doses as the days go by, and giving what we call TLC. Make no mistake, the drugs do hasten their deaths. How much kinder it would be to be able to administer the final drug at the patients request, instead of as in some cases witness a long, protracted, undignified death. Most deaths are not a pretty sight.

When someone has come to the end of their tether because of continuous pain, weight loss, unable to eat or drink, unable to do even the most basic thing for themselves, and they want to hasten the inevitable end, then it is inhumane not to help. But of course we can't in this country, not legally.

I have been a committed atheist all my life, but have respect for people who still have religious views as long as they don't try to push those views onto someone who simply does not share them.

I have a Living Will, and my husband and I have discussed quite often what we would like to do if either of us were suffering from an incurable cancer, or neurological disease such as Motor Neurone Disease. We would like to be allowed to die at a time of our choosing, and preferably in our own home. But I don't suppose I'll see the law changed in my lifetime - so a journey to Dignitas would be the only answer.

Sow u said said...

Frankie> "200,000 babies are aborted in the UK every year".

Glyn Davies said...

Christopher - Thank you.

Frankie - I'm not surprised that you (and many others) disagree. On these sorts of issue, I usually find myself in the minority, but I feel I should write what I think. Anyway it leads to more discussion. I did read about one woman who had eight abortions. What do you think of that? Its impossible to argue with the points you raise about assisted suicide - on the territory you have placed the debate. My opposition is not based on 'religeon' but on might be the unforseen consequences in terms of pressure on very frail and ill people to take the assisted suicide route.