Simon suffered from Motor Neurone Disease and the BBC followed his progressive decline over the final months of his life. It was an interesting programme in any ways and invites me to return to a subject that I feel very strongly about – namely the right of a person to decide the time and method of his or her demise.
Now I’m not advocating for a moment that perfectly healthy people who have just decided they want to die should go down this route or that they should assisted to do so, but I do believe that when the quality of life has declined to an unacceptable level with only the prospect of further suffering or pain or incapacity to look forward to then they should be allowed to decide when they have had enough. After all, if an animal is suffering, then we grant it euthanasia rather than watch it suffer.
“Ah” I hear you say, “but people are not animals!” Quite so. I agree and it is for this reason that I do not confuse human euthanasia with assisted dying. Euthanasia is a process initiated by a third party. In the case of humans, this would be called murder and should quite rightly remain illegal. Assisted dying is not euthanasia. It is initiated by the persons themselves and should be legalised.
It will never happen in my lifetime in the UK simply because of the strength of the Catholic lobby – people who believe in the sanctity of life than God gives and only God has the right to take away. This is, of course, superstitious mumbo jumbo. Suffering is not an act of faith, it is just suffering. I would like the opinion of these pious people when they are faced with what Simon Binner and his like are faced with. Perhaps they will feel differently?
What Binner’s case highlighted is that these decisions are never easy. They don’t always seem convincing to their loved ones. The sufferer is frequently torn between his responsibilities to his loved ones and his own situation. It is never clear cut.
What is clear is that the vast majority of people in the UK support the legalisation of assisted dying and it is time that our legislature and our elected representatives came to terms with this and moved into the 21st century, respecting the will of the majority rather than the vocal few…