Assisted Suicide – Try wearing their shoes!

Today the Scottish Parliament will be voting on Assisted Suicide, it’s a free vote but as things stand it looks like our elected officials will baulk at the responsibility to pass this landmark legislation. In some ways I can understand their dilemma as not one of them has been elected on the mandate of passing such a bill. Even with polls showing support of over 70% in favour, it is still not a decision that anyone wanting to go into an election will want to take. Simply out of fear that those against will campaign negatively and demonise them, possibly damaging their chances of being re-elected.
Personally I can’t understand the situation where you can put a dog out of its misery, but you would consign a human to weeks and months of agony, stress, frustration and abject misery. If someone has reached the stage that their condition is untreatable other than to pump them full of drugs which sedate them for a prolonged period of time, but these drugs never ease the agony of the victim or their families. To be against a compassionate and dignified end of life can mean only two things a) you are a heartless bastard or b) you struggle with the moral, religious or ethical side of the question. The legal side would be taken care of by writing the law, this law would make sure that certain criteria would have to be reached by two or more Doctors, the patient and their family and someone from the legal profession or a JP. I don’t know, there are legal minds that could come up with a system that is accessible to those when they need it, but not open to abuse.
If you struggle on the basis of religion just ask yourself, why would a caring and compassionate God create these horrible and agonising way to die? I don’t believe in a God and after seeing some of his work and what people of all religions do in his name, I just would not want to be in that club. I do respect other rights to their personal religious beliefs but these should not influence laws or society. In modern day society morals are a more appropriate foundation for the laws that we apply. Don’t steal, don’t lie (unless you are a LibDem) and of course don’t kill! With assisted suicide the majority of cases will be that whatever method used to induce death is self administered, but of course the dilemma comes where the patient is incapacitated and someone has to carry out the administration. Should that be a Doctor or a family member? I know personally that to sit day after day watching a loved one slowly waste away in agony and begging for me to do the compassionate thing, it would not take me long to help them end their life because I could never be in category a)! If I had the money I’d take them to Switzerland and if that meant I had to spend time in prison because I purchased a plane ticket then, I’d do it. The few years I would do could never compare to the few months that they would have to suffer! The problem is not everyone has the money. As for Doctors who have an ethical code to save lives, if someone is at the stage where they feel their life is not saving, it is just prolonging, then that code becomes null and void. Withdrawing fluids may speed up the process of dying but in the long run it can bring on more distress and that is unethical too.  If there was a law that allowed some Doctors to specialse in Assisted Suicide then i’m sure the Medical Council would work out an ethical principal and take away one of their biggest fears, being sued.
The only way forward in solving this problem is to have a referendum and allow the full weight of public support to be used to give a clear mandate to the lawmakers and allow those against or with concerns to have an input during the creation of the law to ensure that it addresses their concerns. As demonstrated recently in Ireland a referendum is the best option where politicians feel that they don’t have a clear mandate from the public. We will wait to see, we could all be surprised and learn that in Holyrood we have a parliament full of politicians that are prepared to make the difficult decisions that ease the suffering of terminally ill patients. A suffering that people can’t understand until it happens to them. As they say, you don’t know what it’s like until you have walked a mile in another persons shoes! These are shoes I would not wear unless I knew that I could take them off when they became uncomfortable.

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