Archive for the ‘Dignitas’ Tag
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy’s success in the House of Lords is forcing the Director of Public Prosecutions to get off the fence and clarify the legal position of those who help individuals travel to Switzerland with the purpose of ending their lives. The law in suicide clearly states that it is illegal to assist someone to kill themselves, the maximum penally being 14 years in prison. Over 100 UK residents have gone to the Switzerland-based suicide organisation Dignitas to end their lives but no one who has helped them has been prosecuted.
Previously the DPP has said the law is very clear and no clarification is necessary; yes the law is clear but its application is not. A civil society cannot have laws that are not enforced, or have a complete absence of any threat of being enforced., that is the route to anarchy. The problem for Debbie Purdy, who wants reassurance her husband will not be prosecuted when she decides he life has lost all dignity at its time for it to end, is the DPP may just restate the law and threaten its implementation against any future occurrences.
With the nursing profession now taking a neutral view on assisted suicide the need for a national debate is growing. We already have the churches, moralists and life at all cost supporters criticising the Law Lords response and stating that no one has the right to end their own life. The answer, they say, is to ensure everyone receives the care they need to live out their lives without discomfort or pain and to ultimately die with dignity. This is at best a dream at worst a tragic misrepresentation of what will happen to many people as drugs cannot always give the peaceful end we all desire.
We live in a society that is generally unwilling to talk about death or to consider it something over which it is appropriate to exercise any control. No matter how hopeless, disabled or helpless a person is, they must wait for death to occur naturally. They cannot take the decision, while they have the ability to do so, to choose the point at which their life should end. Voluntary Euthanasia and suicide are against the law although, for the former, some doctors do perhaps stray very close and might even cross over the line on occasions. Like the Irish traveling to England for abortions, we have to travel to Switzerland to access the services of Dignitas who will help those who have decided their time has come.
In 2003 we watched Reginald Crew make the journey and witnessed a dignified and peaceful end to his life. Then Robert and Jennifer Stokes made the journey having chosen to end their pain and suffering. Now a British couple Peter and Penelope Duff chose to end their lives at the Dignitas clinic. Both were reported to be suffering from a terminal illness, Peter was 80 and his wife 70. It is sad that anyone’s life should lack sufficient quality for them to wish to live, but what greater expression of love can there be than to choose to share not just their lives but also their deaths together.
Its thought around 100 people from Britain have used the services of Dignitas to end their lives at the time of their choosing. The law remains unclear on whether the involvement of a third person, however cursory, is illegal. No cases have come to court and Debbie Purdy who has multiple sclerosis did try to get clarification on the matter to be assured her husband would not risk prosecution if he took her to the clinic in Switzerland. If the courts cannot help then Parliament needs to step in and clear up the uncertainty.