Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I believe in euthanasia and I believe, even if it happens very gradually, that eventually the practice will be accepted virtually everywhere. What is the point of continuing a life that has no quality, that has no hope, which has nothing but pain? I only know that if my life gets to the stage where I would like it to end it than someone should be allowed to send me peacefully and painlessly into oblivion. So far, as far as I know, only Holland and Switzerland allow assisted deaths and I think one Australian state has tinkered with it. In Holland there has to have been a long rapport between doctor and patient before it is allowed whereas in Switzerland a number of foreigners have gone there for the sole purpose of having their lives ended. Good grief! We do it for animals, why not for humans? Ah, the objectors say, because life is sacred. Life is sacred? I consider this a fatuous argument when you consider how many people are killed in wars, under dictatorships, as the result of crime, accidents, early deaths, natural disasters, from disease in early life, deaths at birth, cot deaths, abuse. How is life sacred? If life were sacred all of us would live to a ripe old age as happy as Larry but that just isn’t the way it is. The other argument is the tired old religious one that so many still cling to, that suicide is a sin and euthanasia is a form of suicide. Neither of these arguments holds water for me. The third argument is that euthanasia will be abused, i.e. let’s get rid of granny, she’s a flaming nuisance and any way we want to inherit her estate. This argument does hold some water. There will always be those ready, willing and able to abuse any system but on the other hand there would not be a rash of illegal killings so it is not an argument worth considering.

Campaigners who want to see the law changed have set up a ‘Commission on Assisted Dying’ saying the current law is inadequate and that assisted death should be allowed within a strict set of rules so as not to be abused. The commission was chaired by Lord Falconer, a barrister and former justice secretary, and included a wide range of experts including doctors, an ex-police commissioner and a former president of the General Medical Council. The panel received evidence from more than 1,300 sources during its year-long inquiry, although some groups opposed to a change in the law refused to take part because of its remit and way it was put together. Wouldn’t it have been better if their arguments are valid to have joined in the discussion and put their point of view? Boycotting strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bath water. The group said that assisted suicide should be allowed if a person was over 18, terminally ill and judged as having less than 12 months to live, making a voluntary choice and not impaired mentally. Before it should be allowed, the person would also need to be independently assessed by two doctors, the report said and that they should also be acting under their own steam and not be mentally impaired in any way. In practice this means that dementia patients would not be eligible, including the author Sir Terry Pratchett, who helped to fund the commission, as those in the final year of the condition would not be considered mentally fit enough. Nor would a person who has a significant physical impairment, such as locked-in syndrome, as they would have longer than 12 months to live under normal circumstances.

The commissioners said the current arrangements were "inadequate, incoherent and should not continue". But one of the commissioners, the Reverend Canon Dr James Woodward, disagreed with the conclusion.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of ‘Dignity in Dying,’ said the report was "comprehensive and robust", adding she hoped it would "form the foundation of future legislative change" but Dr John Wiles, chairman of ‘Care Not Killing’ - "The safeguards proposed... are really inadequate" and Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of ‘Care Not Killing,’ an alliance of faith and disability groups and doctors, said: "This investigation was unnecessary, biased and lacking in transparency, and its report is seriously flawed. It is being spun as a comprehensive, objective and independent review into this complicated issue. It is anything but." Rubbish.

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