Friday, 22 June 2012
Please, Help Me To Die!
As you start to read this you get a call from the hospital. The love of your life (whoever that may be) has had a serious accident. You arrive at the hospital as next of kin, and you are told by the consultant that your loved one not only has a slim chance of recovery but if they do recover (in the doctor's opinion) there is a possibility that they could be severely disabled physically and mentally for life, and will need 24/7 care day and night. Within days you are given the option to say your goodbyes and turn off the life support. What would you do?
And this is where I need your help. For those of you who said yes, do you feel that you have assisted someone to die, irrespective of who turned the switch off?
Right now in the High Courts of the UK there is an ongoing case regarding a man called Tony Nicklinson who had a stroke 7 yrs ago and now has 'locked-In Syndrome', meaning that he is trapped inside his own body. His mind is unaffected, but he is paralysed from the neck downwards, he communicates by blinking (using a computer) and says his 'life is a living hell'. His legal team is at the High Courts petitioning for his right to have an assisted death as he is physically unable to end his own life without assistance.
I'm not trying to provoke a religious argument on life or death, but rather look at the wider implications that this can have on all of us in a matter of years if this case succeeds. Could this be the thin end of the wedge? A trojan horse for full euthanasia.
Could this 'right to die' case today be extended tomorrow to people suffering from any debilitating illness? Later still, could it not broaden even more, to those who have disabilities that are too hard to cope with, or further still, to the elderly who can't look after themselves? Can you see where I'm going with this? After all, wouldn't it take a great pressure off the National Health Service system, freeing up valuable resources? Wouldn't it lessen the burden on carers?
This has already happened with 'abortion'. It seems to me that it is being used more and more as a viable option for birth control, rather than what it was originally intended for.
Now on the flip side of all this, suppose the person did recover, but had severe mental and/or physical impairment? We may have no idea how much pain that person may be suffering. It is fortunate that Mr Nicklinson can communicate, even just by blinking his eyes. Otherwise, how would we know when they are in pain and when to give medication to ease it? If we knew when to turn them over they wouldn't get bed sores. If we knew when they wanted to go to the toilet, they wouldn't have to wear nappies/incontinence pads, and suffer more indignity every time they soiled the bedding. If we knew what they wanted to eat we wouldn't be giving them half the stuff they may not like or probably force them to eat it, when if fact they weren't actually hungry. We wouldn't turn the light off putting them to bed when they weren't even tired. The reality is, that most people cannot afford to pay for care, so it may be a family member who gets to do all this. What a flip side.
And to muddy the waters even more, what if the doctor's prognosis was wrong and they happened to be the 1 in a 1000 that made a full recovery? After all, doctors can make mistakes.
Would anyone like to clarify how you view assisted suicide, 'do not resuscitate', euthanasia, or 'the right to die'?
I'm really interested to hear your views on this, particularly if you have had to care for someone or have medical experience of this issue.
Aren't doctors supposed to save lives and not assist you in dying?