Tag Archives: assisted dying

A good death

30 Jun

Obviously I should have run a mile but in typical Milk style, the other evening I sat down to watch the infamous Terry Pratchett documentary on euthanasia. I breezed through with surprisingly few tears until the final scene where you see an assisted death played out. I didn’t cry because it was horrific or wrong, I cried because the last and only death I’ve ever witnessed was my mother’s, just 2 months ago. So it was pretty raw. But I also cried because the ending of a life so stoically and peacefully was strangely beautiful.

For once my opinion is absolutely steadfast on this one. I cannot see any single legitimate reason not to legalise euthanasia in this country.

Sure there were unnatural, unnerving things about the way it was being done in Sweden, but they were all down to logistics, not morality.  Hidden away on an industrial estate forced by law out of the residential areas, a strange, artificial, psuedo-house. Not a place you would choose. Not the people you would choose. A horrible unfamiliarity. And people were choosing to go too soon, when they still had legitimate life left to live, through fear of leaving it too late.

All these points could be solved simply by allowing people to die at home, in their own country, in their own bed, surrounded by the ones they love.

I feel passionately that everyone deserves to have a good death. Noone should be forced to eek out some miserable existence, painful in spirit or in body, right to the end. To die without dignity, without personal choice; to me that is truly inhumane. 

My mum had a good death, and I am thankful every single day for that. There was no pain, no real distress, just love. My sister and I took the decision to withdraw medical treatment and my mum died a few hours later. Our decision was taken swiftly, with little of the expected agony, because we instinctively knew it was absolutely the right thing. She had told us herself hours before “I am dying, do not cry”. Had clearly accepted that it was the end, that there was no more fighting to be done.

I would want everyone to have the opportunity to pass away peacefully as my mother did. Despite the devastation and the agony of losing her, the anger that the bastard Cancer could do this and so swiftly, it is an enormous source of comfort to me that she slipped away like this. And really not so different from the man in the documentary.

There are loads of arguments given against legalising assisted dying. Let’s consider the three most popular ones.

“Voluntary euthanasia is the start of a slippery slope that leads to involuntary euthanasia and the killing of people who are thought undesirable” This is simply bollocks. This hasn’t happened in any of the countries where it has been legalised; it is based on some kind of fatalistic assumption that morality and civility will decline if you open the door just a little. Beware the Frankenstein monster.

“Euthanasia weakens society’s respect for the sanctity of life” But what about the sanctity of a peaceful death?

“Euthanasia affects other people’s rights, not just those of the patient” There’s no denying that a death makes ripples far and wide, but how much worse to watch someone you love die a slow and painful death, or to find them strung up against a tree driven to brutality through desparation?

The truth is, most people will cling to life even when there is little hope. Survival is the strongest instinct there is. So in reality, and given the choice , most wouldn’t choose to die. But if an individual chooses it for themelves, with full knowledge, careful thought and freedom? Tell me what is so wrong about that?