Somebody else hanging up your hat?
Somebody else hanging up your hat?

Impossible, you’d think.  Yet Belgium, where assisted suicide/euthanasia has been law for 13 years, allows its doctors to kill patients they judge to have a quality of life so low as to not be worth living.  It’s true.  The BMJ and the Journal of Medical Ethics published a report of a study by Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor of the University of Hull, in June 2015.

You can read it  here –

http://www.hull.ac.uk/rca/docs/articles/First%20Do%20No%20Harm%20-%20%20Shortening%20Lives%20of%20Patients%20without%20Their%20Explicit%20Request%20in%20Belgium.pdf

In just 13 years the attitude has tipped from assisted suicide being the patients’ choice to the doctors’ subjective judgement.  If I were an older person in Belgium I wouldn’t go into hospital without a contract drawn up by my lawyer and signed by the consulting physician.

It’s not all that rosy for disabled and elderly people in the Netherlands, either. National TV broadcast a programme a few years ago where a lady in her late fifties,just diagnosed with dementia, gave her reasons for asking for assisted suicide.  Chillingly, one was about saving the cost of care.  Since when have we been able to put a monetary value on a human life?  And, as I’ve mentioned before, the Dutch Regulator says euthanasia there is out of control, and advises the British Government not to adopt it.  There are currently discussions about people over 70 being able to request it on the basis of ‘being tired of life’ and having had ‘a complete life.’

And it could happen here, in the UK.  The first step is the assisted suicide bill being presented in parliament on the 11th.  The enlarging and loosening of the law and attitudes will follow as sure as night follows day.

Even before it gets as far as that,  imagine being younger and disabled and needing help, and having to justify your existence, because others in your situation had thought their lives not worth living and had accepted  the ‘assisted suicide’ option!  Or even, when given a life limited diagnosis and describing the treatment, your doctor also included the possibility of his/her helping to kill you.

But what’s the assisted suicide bill all about really?     Improved palliative care means that people can experience a pain/controlled, ‘good death’.  As Dr Cicely Saunders, the founder of the first hospice said, ‘“You don’t have to kill the patient in order to kill the pain.”  She also said that,’You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.’

The Bill is about having control of your manner of death, and choosing the timing.  Control, and choice.  In his new book, ‘A Right to Die?’Professor John Wayne mentions the mental and emotional state of people who choose … and how we should discuss the issue with ‘tears in our eyes’.  And we do.  In counselling we come across people who feel that life has no meaning or hope for them, but we don’t suggest suicide.

The implication for others who don’t choose to control their death is that their lives, being similar at some point to those who have, are inferior.

I’ve put together a short Power Point suitable for showing to groups, and in churches.  If you’d like a copy, email me through the blog or at louise.morse@pilgrimsfriend.org.uk.

And do pray.  I think this Bill presents a greater danger to disabled and elderly people than a ‘flu epidemic, or even the 2nd World War.

Every single person on earth is ageing, and one day – as long as we keep breathing! – we shall all be old.  Do we want it to be, then, that if we need hospital or medical treatment it will be on the understanding that if the doctor, who will be arguably half our age with half our life experience and wisdom, decides that the quality of our lives isn’t worth it, he/she will be free to kill us?

 

 

 

 

 

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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