Spain has just become the fourth EU country to allow suicide and assisted death for people terminally ill and wishing to die. Previosusly, attempted suicide and assisted death carried prison sentences of ten years. This is a difficult subject because so many people believe in the sanctity of life. They genuinely think it is wicked to end your own life whatever the circumstances. I have great understanding of, and sympathy for, their position. Death is not a subject we often talk about. Nor, for that matter, do we discuss the wonders of the gift of life that we have been given.
And that’s the heart of the matter – “given” by who? If you believe your life came from Almighty God – a wonderful and faithful belief to have – then it is perhaps logical that your God should be the person to choose when it ends. If you believe that your life came from your parents and that from the age of about eighteen you were supposed to be independent and make your own way in the world, then you have rights over your existence and over the decision about when it shall end.
There is a third category and it’s a very big one. These are people who, like me, sense a mighty power that instigated the universe – for what purpose we know not – and that somehow then wanted us to get on with it, learn the sciences, discover the planets, make mistakes, invent amazing things like AI and have the greatest gift you can ever be given – free will. Because, for most people, they do choose every day, every minute. Because, for most people, life is determined by ambitions, risks, failures and fulfillment.
For all, death must come sometime. We hope it will be swift, as painless as possible, and as least disturbing for our loved ones as possible, too. The reality is that magic medicine can keep us going for a long time and we value that time probably more than any other time we have in our life. Most people want to live to the last gasp, to stay connected to those they love for every minute possible. They must certainly be allowed to do so.
But I have seen some old people in pain, distress, uncomfortable, longing to die. They should be allowed to do so. It is almost inevitable that they will need help to find the best and most comfortable way to die and they will ask their doctor for this. S/He should be allowed to help them.
Needless to say we have to have strict controls to avoid a spate of murders convenient for those who want to rid the world of particular people. Our death certificate business has to be much more stringent than it is now. It is an area for diligent policing.
We never know another’s pain. That is because each of us is individually sensitive. We observe people who seem to be insensitive but frankly don’t know if they suffer more or less than we do. We see people who react faster than us but we don’t know how sensitive they are. I am very sensitive about many things but have a sharp tongue which can offend others quite deeply. Yet sitting with someone in pain I find very difficult. Helplessness is a draining state to be in even if the problem is another’s. We should allow people to move on beyond helplessness.
Stay alive while life is worth living. Life is a miracle. When the miracle has come to an end, it is time to die. Only you can decide that time, not legislators and enforcers. Those who work in hospices for the dying are used to the process. They see it all the time. And yet, even if they have worked there for many years, when a patient dies they shed a tear, say a prayer. It doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe, a prayer is always acceptable.
I hope to live for many more years. I’ve already passed my life expectancy, so every day is a bonus, a present I treasure.
When I become useless and pained with ageing body, I hope I will be allowed to ask for release. And I hope someone will be allowed to help in that release.
It will, after all, be my last free will decision.