Thursday, December 11, 2008


The debate on assisted suicide rumbles on. Some have suggested that Sky Real Lives’ decision to show the death of Motor Neurone disease sufferer Craig Ewert was a bid for ratings. I didn’t see the documentary, I was out. I didn’t want to see it because I don’t personally agree with broadcasting someone’s death. I didn’t need to see this documentary either, because my father had MND so I am very well aware of how the disease affects its sufferers.
Bid for ratings or not, I am glad the show was aired. Even if people were drawn to watch Mr Ewert’s last moments through morbid curiosity, hopefully the result will be a heightened awareness of the disease, and more donations to related charities.
Assisted suicide is a very contentious issue. I do recognise fears that if it were legal in this country there could be rare abuses and that checks could be difficult to police. However possible rare cases of abuse do not seem to me to be adequate justification for denying a substantial section of intelligent human society an escape from suffering which we afford our pets.
Unwilling to endure further deterioration, fear, suffering, humiliation and frustration followed by a slow but certain death my father chose a more humane route to the same ultimate destination. Unprepared to risk making his family and friends liable for a charge of murder he was forced to end his life completely alone, and at an earlier stage than he would have chosen, simply because he needed to be physically able to do it.
The fact that the Mark and Julie James and most in their position aren’t facing prosecution reassures me that while euthanasia remains illegal here, the law does have a human face, and common sense and compassion tend to prevail in these cases. Nevertheless the fact that people in my father’s position have to choose between a lonely, unnecessarily early death, a slow, distressing, death, or potentially making criminals of the people they love is completely unacceptable.
Legalising euthanasia would undeniably require faultless planning to avoid abuse of the system. However there can be no rational, compassionate human being who truly believes that sustaining the “life” we have been given outweighs the human right to make a personal choice to end unbearable suffering which we would not allow an animal to endure.