I had to go the the hospital yesterday for some tests. Sitting in a hospital waiting room, surrounded by people, some of who are clearly very unwell, does tend to concentrate the mind.
So during the evening, it felt rather serendipitous to stumble upon a television programme on assisted dying, especially as I had missed the media ballyhoo preceding its airing.
Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors, has become a champion of the assisted dying cause, since his diagnosis with Alzheimer's a few years ago. The programme, Choosing To Die, made uncomfortable viewing, especially for me as it featured a MS sufferer who despite looking reasonably chipper, had obviously had enough, for he made the journey to Switzerland to the Dignitas clinic to end his life just days before Christmas. Terry also followed a married couple, he suffering from motor neurone disease, who had made the decision to die.
For those of us cursed with an over-active imagination, it was reassuring to see that the setting was rather hum-drum, from the blue prefab-like building set on a road in an industrial estate, to the endless cups of tea in brightly coloured cups on offer throughout.
The final administering of the poison though, and the subsequent obvious discomfort (and perhaps fear) were harrowing and difficult to watch, although mercifully it was all over very quickly.
I have no doubt that the death he chose was surely infinitely preferable to the horrors (real or imagined) of terminal motor neurone disease. What is sad is that he had to die perhaps sooner than necessary, as he had to be fit enough to make the journey to Switzerland and, critically, administer the poison himself.
It is strange that in such a humane, enlightened society as ours, there is no legal provision for those with terminal conditions, to choose the moment of their demise. Leaving aside the need for all the essential checks and balances, it would seem to be a sensible option.
I also wonder when suicide was rebranded as 'assisted dying'. It's always been perceived as a rather dirty word but even so.....
In a similar vein, this thoughtful and thought-provoking blog post caught my eye this week. Jane Laverick is well-known for her witty take on the miniature world, but this serious piece will have struck a chord with anyone who has ever been affected by suicide, myself included.
For many years I could never imagine being in a position where it would ever be a viable option. I do not intend ever going gently into that good night, and will indeed rage against the dying of the light. However, just knowing that there is an option to slip away painlessly, should the raging eventually prove ineffectual, would be a comfort.