On Friday 11th September Parliament will, once again, debate assisted dying. And, yet again, opinions are polarised. Everyone has their own views on the matter, should the legislation allowing assisted suicide be in place or is it the thin end of the wedge and should it remain illegal. Just like many people, I have strong feelings on the issue.
As I am a severely disabled woman, restricted largely to a hospital bed in my living room, many people might expect me to be in favour of taking my own life when things get too much for me. Well, possibly surprisingly, I am not. I am one of the ‘thin end of the wedge’ people. I am only 54 years of age and I have so much more to give, so much more to say, so much more to do. I have two adult daughters, two adult nieces, and I want to see what happens to all four of them. I want to be part of their lives for as long as possible. I want grandchildren and great nephews and great nieces and I want them to be able to remember me too. I have friends I want to continue to see and talk to and spend time with. I have films I want to see and places I want to visit. And I have literary ambitions too. I know I have a great novel inside me somewhere, just waiting to be written if I can only just find it and let it out. I have opinions I need to express, I want to go on playing a part in the political life of this country, however small that part may be. I don’t want to stop, I still have things to do.
I do realise that I am lucky, I am not in great pain or discomfort. Maybe, if I was, I might think differently but I don’t know. I only know what I think now. And right now I think that the Assisted Dying Bill needs to be opposed. As far as I am concerned there are not enough safeguards in place as yet to protect all disabled people. I am scared that, if the Bill goes forward and is enacted, there will be people who will feel ‘pressurised’ into asking to die. People who feel that they are a burden on their families. People who feel there is nothing left for them to do. People who feel they have no future. I also feel there are not enough safeguards for the doctors and nurses who would have to administer the fatal drugs. Doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. How can they then help to kill people without there being some sort of reaction. Whenever there is discussion about assisted dying none ever seems to consider those that would have to do the killing.
But, back to the main issue. What about those people who are, unlike me, in great pain. Those people for whom life is unbearable because of the agonies they experience every day. Surely, I can hear you say, they should be able to opt for suicide? Maybe, but I am a great advocate for effective palliative care for everyone who needs it. My own mother spent her final days in a hospice, with an amazing team of dedicated nurses and doctors, allowing her to drift gently from this life whilst experiencing no pain from the cancer that was ravaging her body. And we got to talk to each other every day until she left me. Wonderful. Everyone who needs it should have that option. Surely, with all the medical advances that have been made, palliative care for everyone who needs it should be a reality. Surely people living with excruciating pain day on day should be a thing of the past. Surely, rather than arguing about whether or not people should be allowed to take their own lives we should be putting more time and money into ensuring we can all live for our allotted span in peace and comfort.
Until suitable options for all disabled people are in place, until there are sufficient safeguards to protect us, until palliative care is a reality for all who need it then the Assisted Dying Bill needs to be defeated. If the people who have already gone abroad to end their lives had had other options would they still have gone? I am not sure they would. I believe this Bill is at the top of a slippery slope leading down to euthanasia and, as such, should go no further. And, I am not expecting everyone who reads this blog to agree with me but, if what I have said makes people think about the issues again, then it has done its job.