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Sir Terry Pratchett

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Memo After a Day Talking to the Media About Assisted Dying

Posted: 6/01/2012 23:00

As I understand the guidelines from the Director of Public Prosecutions, a spouse or even a family friend can assist somebody to die if they act out of compassion and love as far as these can be ascertained.

Journalists seem to think this is a great concession which we should be happy with. I am not. All that is being tentatively offered means that amateurs will try to help other amateurs to die with, heaven help us, such mechanisms and drugs that they can get hold of.

Frankly this is no better than suicide itself. I know that on several occasions people have rigged up all kinds of devices and this makes my flesh creep. As a former journalist I had to deal all too often with the results of successful, but nevertheless terribly amateurish, suicides which were traumatic to the extent of making hardened police officers vomit. Surely a compassionate and caring country can do better than this?

As a society, we seem to be quite kind even to serious offenders, and one might think that the treatment of those whose only 'crime' is a disinclination to have a life at the mercy of a debilitating and unforgiving disease is somewhat mysterious.

In fact I see in this the dark hand of religion, a religion that subconsciously regards illness as a sin requiring atonement and therefore the patient is a sinner and deserving of trial by ordeal, a practice which we may have thought of as having been swept away by the Enlightenment, many years ago. In short, people who have done nothing wrong except contract an illness deserve more than a government whose bravery extends no further than to turn a blind eye.

I know a number of people that have gone to Dignitas, and have spoken to many others who have seen their loved ones go down this route, and one thing they appear to have in common is that, like good citizens they take charge of their own affairs, value their independence and think ahead. In theory this should make them in the eyes of their government model citizens.

In fact, the government of the welfare state is not very happy about citizens who take total responsibility for themselves rather than hanging from the teat of the welfare state; apparently such people must be punished.

 

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