Sir Terry Pratchett has made a good case for helping people who no longer have 'quality of life'.
Watching him on Breakfast tv this morning made me think of my parents, my father died of stomach cancer, it closed off the top of his stomach so he could not eat, he spent his last days looking like a Belsen victim, gradually starving to death while loaded with morphine for the pain.
I held his hand wishing he would die, just to stop his pain.
My mother died of colonic cancer four years later, but that was not the problem, for the last few months of her life she had no idea of where or who she really was, for the last two years of her life she dropped in and out of reality, sometimes believing the second world war was still going on. At other times she was just completely confused as to anything around her. She was also in pain from the cancer, like my father she was on a multitude of drugs, some of which I am sure did not help the situation. While she was still able to comprehend the world around her, even if only for a few days at a time, she was worth holding on to, but in the last six months of her life she was not my mother, she was a stranger who rambled on about nothing, she kept crying in pain and wept for her lost husband. Did we have the right to keep her in that condition? I know she would have wanted to stay alive as long as possible, she believed in god and I think that belief would not have allowed her to finish her life. But what if she had already discussed this when she was well? What if she knew what was going to happen and did not want to live past the point of no return?
Should we hold on to our loved ones when they have no quality of life? Should we keep dragging them back when they are not the same person we once knew? My wishes are well known to my other half, if my quality of life is so bad that I can no longer function as a human being or I am no longer recognisable as 'me', then I want to die. I have no wish to spend my last days as a vegetable or a useless lump of flesh, as long as my brain functions normally and I can at least read and communicate, then fine, but once that line is crossed then I do not want to live.
I am not talking about some minor injury, I have mates who have no legs and and except for the fact they wont go to the bar for their round, they are fine people, I used to know a bloke with a broken back, he was paralysed from the neck down, yet once he got over the shock managed quite well with the help of his wife. His brain functions were fine and he lived for 5 years like that, he finally fell prey to pneumonia.
When someone has left clear and plain instructions, when they have made their wishes clear as to how they want to die in dignity and not be kept alive if they have no quality of life, who are we to go against their wishes. I think the main fear is that older people will be pressured into it by unscupulous relatives, yet surely we can put enough safeguards in place to alleviate that worry?
What right do we have to prolong someones life once they have made the decision to die?
You could argue that someone who wants to die is not in their right mind, I can agree with that in a few cases, yet there are many many people who are completely sane and have the same desire as me, we want the right to be in control of our own bodies and destiny. Who really wants to suffer in the last days of their life? I would rather go quietly at a time of my own chosing, than fade away slowly in pain or with no concious idea of the world around me.
A really good article.