Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Time to respect the right to choose when to die

Tony Nicklinson had a massive stroke some 6yrs ago and is totally paralysed. All he can move is his eyes & blink but his brain is unimpaired. He cannot commit suicide [which is legal] by himself. Anyone that helps him may be charged with murder. He has recently [12th March] won a High Court ruling which will allow his case to be considered in open court. He doesn't want to go yet but what gives the likes of Ann Widdecombe, Baroness Finlay and their supporters the right to deny him the choice? Come to that what gives them the right to deny anyone that choice? Recently someone I knew died. His relatives were of the Widdicombe/Finlay school but were completely broken up by his suffering over the last couple of weeks of life despite the best palliative care that could be legally offered. I respect that. All I ask for is that my wish to just end it all at a time of my choosing is equally respected.

Immediately [c. 15.50 BBC News 12th March] the ruling was announced Baroness Finlay was on the TV arguing her usual case against assisted suicide. To many of us that case is threadbare. She pushed it further than usual by asserting that, if the Dutch experience [where assisted suicide is legal] was translated to the UK, there would be some 13000 such events here. This was presented as huge number but no evidence as to its origin was forthcoming. In reality there were 491348 deaths from all causes in the UK in 2009 [It hovers around half a million most years]. Twelve thousand of these were due to accidents.

Meanwhile Ann Widdecombe, whose views on assisted suicide are well known, had a headlined comment " If assisted suicide was put into law no granny would be safe" [Financial Times Magazine 10/11 March]. This reaches a new low in emotive distortion of the truth. She does not have a shred of evidence for that assertion. On the contrary all the evidence from countries, where the law is more sensible & compassionate than Widdicombe would allow, shows that her scaremongering is the opposite of the reality. The time is long overdue for the Law to recognise the consequences of advances in medicine over the last 50yrs and come up with a realistic mechanism giving freedom of choice to all.

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