I have always been against euthanasia. I have been happy with assisting suicide being criminal. Might I change my mind?
Having been suicidal, I know that it is no solution to any problem. I feel that any life is better than death. And, I know what it is to Want something ridiculous or disgusting in others’ view- my transition- and from that can empathise with bodily integrity identity disorder- those people who want parts of themselves amputated.
I would want not just anybody to be able to assist someone to kill themselves. I would want this restricted, so there was a clear evidence trail: so my scheme would need particular licensed, medically qualified killers, a psychiatric assessment, and an independent witness of the person’s desire.
I loathe the idea that someone might kill herself now, because in a year she will have no quality of life, and will be unable to kill herself. If you can get yourself to a high building and over the parapet, you can kill yourself- though in a selfish way, hurting the people who have to find you, and scrape you up. Incidentally, there are some very very bad places to throw yourself from the cliffs at Beachy Head: you might land on a ledge, broken but conscious, then die of exposure because no-one could find you. A coroner’s assistant told me this. And a man who hanged himself with a sisal rope had scratch marks at his neck: he had changed his mind, but been unable to loosen the knot.
Having been suicidal, I can report that there is a ghastly unreality about one’s fantasies. I imagine myself relaxed and content, slipping off, whereas the threat to life brings forth primordial brain structures, raging at the dying of the light.
Suicide is utterly horrible, the declaration of final hopelessness. My friend said “It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. But not in these cases: someone terminally ill whose illness will slowly strip away mental and physical function and cause increasing pain-
A year ago I would have been unequivocally against euthanasia. It is an easy way out for the medical profession, too: they strive for effective palliative care, because that is their only option. I want them to work very hard on palliative care. They still will, many of them. Any
mercy killing is an admission of failure for them.
Over the last few months I have been coming round, and this morning sitting down to think it through, here, I have come round to supporting euthanasia for the terminally ill. I am not quite there for everyone who wants it: not for depression, not for someone paralysed from the neck down as I dare to hope such a person, forced to live, might find some meaning in life.