Let’s be absolutely clear what “assisted dying” is. It is asking a Doctor to kill you. Sure, a terminally ill patient, in theory, pulls the trigger, but it’s the doctor that sets up the drip, inserts the catheter and explains exactly how the drugs will kill you by suppressing your respiratory function after you drift out of conciousness. The principle that doctors don’t deliberately kill people is valuable, and should not be thrown away lightly.
I see no benefit in prolonging suffering. But equally, the fears that pressure will be put upon vulnerable old people to tidy themselves up, are not invalid. I think about my Late Nana who went into hospital shortly after her husband died, and who, at that time had very little interest in life, but who fought off her illnesses and went on for another quarter of a century of much-loved political incorrectness and cantankerousness. Would she have come out of hospital in the late ’90s were the pain too easy to take away?
Death isn’t tidy or comfortable. For some it is a blessed relief from suffering. But I suspect that is less widespread than campaigners for changes to the law believe. Life itself is precious. We shouldn’t create a situation where a neat, tidy death is expected of an old person, as soon as they become “a burden”. Whether this is as prevalent in the Netherlands as anti-assisted dying campaigners believe, I simply don’t know. I suspect it’s going to be very difficult to tease any truth from the statistics. There are families, tired of the burden of visiting an elderly relative who will be tempted to bump of granny before she spend the inheritance on care-home fees, even as the vast majority couldn’t even conceive of anything so vile.
I don’t think people who help terminally-ill loved ones, suffering unimaginable pain, to die with dignity should be convicted of murder. The relief of suffering by killing someone who clearly and demonstrably wants to end their lives should be a defence against murder. But I still think it should be tested in court, and taking lives shouldn’t be commonplace.
Do I support the change in the law? I simply don’t know. Both sides have compelling arguments. I’m not a religious man, but I don’t, in general, think it’s healthy to pick the time we die.