Tuesday, 14 June 2011

This mortal coil..............

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 diseaseWhat 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. 



Sans! said...

What a thought provoking post Sandra. Thank you for sharing with us.

In Singapore, we have a choice to execute an Advanced Medical Directive where you can opt not to prolong your life with artificial means if we are terminally ill. But no euthansia or assisted dying as well.

Sandra Morris said...


We have a similar thing to your AMD, called a Living Will, where a wish can be expressed not to be resucitated or to have interventionist treatment. But it's still a long way from being able to choose to end a life which has become unbearable.


Anonymous said...

Bless you...Sandra..you brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.

I am one of those who would not 'rage against the dying of the light,' having seen my Father suffering and dying for 20 long months with lung cancer. I would most certainly go gently, if I could.

Life is obviously much more precious to you than it is to me. TO me it's an accident that might never have happened...and I don't go with all this religion nonsense either.... so my life is my own to do with as I please.At any time. I don't need a reason.

I don't have a telly...perhaps it's good job I don't.

Kathi said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this subject Sandra. I am a nurse and in my profession we are charged to do whatever it takes to preserve life. I agree that at times doing that just prolongs suffering with the inevitable outcome of death. I believe that each person should have the right to say when enough is enough. I have often "joked" with my family and friends that I would like a tatoo on my chest that says "Do Not Resusitate" "No CPR." If God chooses to end my life I do not want anyone to try to stop that.
Sadly, even having a living will does not assure that no heroic efforts will be done. I do not want my family or my physicians to have to make those decisions. We have Hospice organizaions that help those who are terminally ill go in peace, at home with their family surrounding them. I hope that someday there will be more understanding and the option of making one's own decisions when the time comes.
Bless you for sharing your thoughts. I wish you well.

Sandra Morris said...

Thanks for your comments Sue and Kathi.

It's sad that in our times, death and dying are almost taboo subjects, skirted around and often referred to only obliquely.

In many ways,the TV programme I referred to was a breath of fresh air...


Michelle said...

I'm behind with posts and the reading of!

Very interesting piece! I didn't want to watch the programme myself because I didn't agree with the broadcasting of such a harrowing and private event (if I can call it that).

That's not to say that I don't agree with the whole issue of assisted suicide though. Providing a person is of sound mind and is not coerced in anyway to do this, people should have the right to choose how they end their lives if an illness etc., prevents them from leading a life that is not happy or fulfilling for them personally.

Off to read a lighter post of yours. :o)

Michelle xx