It’s been quite a week for two prominent campaigners for assisted suicide. Two of them have died. First, Noel Conway, who suffered from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and today we learn of the death of Paul Lamb, who was left virtually immobile following a major car crash. Both wanted to be able to choose their moment of dying and both were prevented from doing so by our archaic and, I would suggest, inhumane laws. We think nothing of taking desperately sick pets to be put down in order to ensure they do not suffer so why do we deny it to ourselves?
There are, of course, many people with moral and, as ever in such cases, religious objections, the latter informing us that only God can decide who dies when, how and where. If he actually existed – spoiler alert: he doesn’t – allowing people to die, often tragically and in terrible pain, does not strike me as a particularly Godly act. But then, maybe this is the God of the Old Testament, who was a pretty nasty piece of work. I would probably be relieved to find myself in hell after death rather than in his living room. But how should we react to and deal with objections to issues like assisted suicide? Simple: allow people to make their own choices.
For example, if you object to equal, some call it same-sex, marriage then my solution to someone who objects is to marry someone of a different sex and not the same one. No one is forcing you. And if you object to abortion, then don’t have one. By the same token, if you wish to choose to end your own life because of, for example, a hideous medical condition, then who’s business is it other than yours?
I try not to think too much about my death and more particularly how it will happen. I suppose ideally, I would be a generally fit and coherent hundred year old in a room full of naked women, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon and extra mature Cheddar cheese on toast. However, I know death may not be that pleasant, if that’s the right word. I have always dreaded the possibility of being paralysed from the neck down or ending up with dementia, not knowing who or where I was. That does not seem like life to me. I have seen what these awful diseases do to people, stealing their lives and all the dignity that goes with it. I would like to make my own choice, thank you very much, allowing me to do so when I was of sound mind, always assuming I ever have been.
In the end, Mr Conway removed his own ventilator which he knew would bring about his death and that it could take as long as eight hours to die. I do not know why at his instruction, he could have been allowed to instruct someone to ‘put him to sleep’ as we do with cats and dogs. What is the point in keeping someone alive artificially for no purpose other than a heavily watered-down version of life itself?
Boris Johnson said in the House of Commons this week that the subject of assisted dying was a matter for Parliament and so it is, but wouldn’t it be better if we gave some kind of lead? It’s very simple. Allow people the choice, put certain rules in place to ensure abuses could not occur and let’s stop keeping people alive who do not want to live and who don’t want to suffer. Your life and death is surely no one else’s business, is it?