Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Right To Die

Whilst I have every sympathy for Debbie Purdy and want to see her last days go by without her suffering and being in anguish, I have grave reservations about today's ruling.
The reason is simple, whilst the law asks for clarification (nothing wrong about that in itself), it could give strength to the pro-euthanasia lobby the next time such a case comes forward, once clarification is made. It would also mean, if clarification was made and it was strongly against acts of euthanasia, that some relatives who have acted out of misguided, but well-meaning intentions and who have the grief over the death of a loved one, could face prosecution and a prison sentence and I for one feel that is a bad way to handle such an issue.
Because the thing is, if it isn't obvious already, is that I am very much against euthanasia. In my case it's for three reasons. First of all my Christian conscience speaks against it, secondly to legalise euthanasia allows the floodgates to open and the very real possibility of relatives and friends convincing themselves that it is right to kill the person in question because they are a "burden", and no amount of protective legislation will prevent that. Similar arguments about exceptional cases were put forward when abortion was legalised and whilst many women have abortions for fairly convincing reasons, there are some who do not.
The third reason is the Hippocratic Oath, a tract of ethical rights devised by the Ancient Greeks which seems to have little impact in today's society. That Oath binds physicians and Doctors to protect life, not to end life, and in all things when one looks at the arguments presented, one must argue for the protection of the vulnerable and weak.
That said, I would argue that more needs to be done in terms of helping the NHS. Many people who are terminally ill are frightened and scared. They don't so much fear death as much as they fear suffering and the loss of dignity and rightly so. There are many ways that can be dealt with, one is palliative care, the need for more money to go into hospices, many of which do brilliant work and rarely get the credit they richly deserve. Money should not just be poured into the NHS, but in training Doctors, Nurses, and Physicians in people skills, in helping to foster a real sense of compassion towards patients which is sadly lacking in some of today's hospitals. When my own time comes, hopefully many years from now, I would like it to be sudden and in my sleep, but if that does not happen, if I am going to die an unpleasant lingering death, then I would like to go in a hospice, or at home, being cared for and tended to and for my next of kin be able to praise the way I was treated in my last months. I don't want to die in a hospital ward feeling lonely and scared with brusque and cold handed hospital staff tending to me. I imagine many of you feel the same about yourselves, so maybe with that in mind, we ought to campaign and work more towards better palliative care.


Tom Paine said...

It seems that there is one thing on which you and I agree, though my reasoning is rather different. I posted about it today at:

Paul Burgin said...

Having read you post, the example you gave from the Netherlands confirms some of my concerns