$1million baby…

18 10 2008

The debate about assisted suicide has been reopened following the death of Daniel James in September. The 23 year old’s death has sparked a police inquiry after it was revealed that his parents had taken him to a Switzerland clinic to allow him to die.

James had been paralysed following a training ground accident in a scrum, and, it is reported became more and more depressed as he underwent a serious of operations designed to help him recover. The various stories can be found in more depth on the BBC, or indeed any other news site. I don’t wish to discuss the ins and outs here, but more the moral position.

In Britain assisted suicide is illegal, but across Europe there are various places, Switzerland included, which allow the process to be undertaken. Some people call the process murder, its defenders call it mercy. It is very easy to see both sides of this argument. Those pro-life supporters (who equally argue in force against abortion) suggest that no-one has the right to choose to end a life, be it by consent or otherwise. The doctors argue that they do not wish to be responsible for the deaths of others. The arguments against euthanasia are moral ones. The trouble is that they tend to deal with the hypothetical rather than the specific. I think this is where I get swayed.

Those who argue for euthanasia often have a case, an example, a very good reason why they are choosing this course. They might know people who are in constant pain, or who are in a vegitative state following an accident. They argue it is impossible to know the pain of others, it is hard to work out what they are feeling, especially if they cannot express themselves. If someone expresses their desire to die (like Daniel James) and is of clear mind, surely it is inhumane to ignore his wishes?

It is here where things become unclear though. The process of defining a ‘clear mind’ in someone who has just had their life completely and utterly altered is hard. Very hard. It is also hard to work out if they are of ‘clear mind’ a year down the line, when things such as depression have kicked in.

I think it is here where common sense and sympathy should kick in. If the person has little or no chance of improving their condition in the long term, surely, if they frequently express their desire to die, it would be humane to listen to their desires? Surely?

Then though the anti-euthanasia crowd chirp up, “but what about the person who has to take the life, and deal with it on their conscience for the rest of their life?” My answer would be harsh I think. Deal with it. If it was someone you loved, and you were sure that you were doing the best for them, I’m not sure really what there would be to live with. Yes, you have killed someone, but you have done it for the best of reasons. It is not like being in war. You know who you are killing. More than likely it is someone you trust, and someone who trusts you. It will be someone you love, and who loves you.

The title of this post alludes to a film in which the problems of euthanasia are dealt with by the main character, played by Clint Eastwood. The film is a remarkable one, and is very thought provoking. I would recommend that if you haven’t seen it, do so. It says a lot about the policy of assisted suicide in a religious world.

I realise that I have said little about the various arguments relating to assisted suicide in this post, and I do not intend to. I will let you form your own opinion on it. My opinion, for what it is worth, is in favour of the policy. Whilst there have been economic reasons suggested for being pro-euthanasia, my reasons are more simplistic. It is something born out of love. Out of caring so much for someone you realise that they want to end their life because they have suffered terribly in it. Whilst I am therefore for the policy, I will add one stipulation. It is not something that should be abused. It should not be an option for someone who has suffered from depression for a year but otherwise is medically fine. I think it should be applicable only to paralysed people if they so desire. There is a lot more to say on this, but I shall leave it at that.

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One response

20 10 2008
Claire

This was a very thought provoking news story. It was very brave of the family to take their son to the clinic and I was angry to read that the parents had been reported to the police by, according to guy’s mother, “a well meaning person”-someone who most likely does not have to see a close family member of theirs in Daniel James’ position 24 hours a day-it is probably very easy for them to take the “moral high ground” when they have the freedom to do basic things we all take for granted-like being able to pick up a telephone, dial a number and snitch on their neighbours, who have already had to watch their son or brother go through a terrible accident then make the decision to respect his choice and help him to end his life.

That said I don’t know if it would be a good thing for clinics like that to exist here-the fact that people have to plan the trip and make the effort into going over there is a good thing, it gives people thinking time, perhaps makes it less likely to be a whim, maybe less open to abuse etc

Do you remember watching the local news last year and their was the piece about the paralysed guy from Edgbaston who was saving up to go to Switzerland and hoped his birthday (they were filming on his 40th or something) would be his last?

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