Posted by: aboutalbion | July 13, 2014

Death and life

In the coming week in the UK, another attempt will be made in the House of Lords to change the law on ‘assisted suicide’.

If I had a vote, then I would oppose this initiative.

I write as someone who has been present at the death of both my parents.  They both lived past the age of 90, and they both had ‘peaceful deaths’.

My opposition to this proposal is twofold.

First, an ‘assisted suicide’ would be deemed to be legal if (among other conditions) two doctors attest that a person had less than six months to live.  This move would enshrine in law that there are experts who can predict the future.  I have seen no evidence that doctors can predict the future through clairvoyance.  My understanding is that doctors can only state that there is no known treatment at present for a diagnosed condition.

Second, an ‘assisted suicide’ would be deemed to be legal if a ‘mentally competent’ person had a ‘settled intention’ to end her/his own life.  There is no recognition here that all those related to the person whose life is nearing its end are conflicted.  Since we live in a society where property can be owned by private individuals, assets live longer than the holders of these assets.  Upon death, all relatives have ‘expectations’.  I find that a ‘settled intention’ to end her/his own life cannot be divorced from the conflict of financial interests that surround any death.

The present situation may be ‘messy’.  But all human life is ‘messy’.  There is no agreement as to what is a ‘compassionate‘ action.  I cannot agree that the sponsors of change have a monopoly on ‘compassionate’ action.  And so I find that this proposed change in the law is not self-evidently more compassionate that the existing law.

Rather, I find that it is foreseeable that this proposed change in the law would increase the pressure on older vulnerable citizens to consider using the process of ‘assisted suicide’, and it is foreseeable that the method used would be discourse about ‘needless suffering’.

And this is where the crux of the matter is revealed.  If one follows Arthur Schopenhauer in concluding that the life story of every human being is a story of pain and suffering, then discourse about ‘needless suffering’ is none other than discourse about life ‘getting too much for me’.

Since I don’t wish to see any steps taken towards ‘death on demand’, I hope this motion in the House of Lords next week is voted down.

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