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Assisted suicide - should the law be changed?

(33 Posts)
effblinder Thu 05-Jan-12 10:11:45

I have just seen that a new report has come out about the law on assisted suicide. It seems at the moment that the law is quite fuzzy about what is possible, and there have been some landmark cases in which those who may have helped terminally ill people to die have not been prosecuted for it.

I for one am very glad this topic is being discussed in the media. I really think that if our society can talk about death as a meaningful and important part of life, we will be better people because of it.

The story I read is here:

bagitha Thu 05-Jan-12 10:17:32

I certainly support more openness about this and an acceptance that assisted suicide is, in short, acceptable where proper safeguards are in place to prevent abuse.

maxgran Thu 05-Jan-12 13:45:17

From what I have heard - where it is legal in other Countries the safeguards to protect the vulnerable are not satisfactory.
I don't think anyone can decide for another or judge another so perhaps it could be legalised providing each case was heard individually by a panel of experts and could be processed quickly where necessary.

julieandrews Thu 05-Jan-12 16:47:25

I, wholeheartedly believe that anyone who wants to end their life, should be able to do so, with help from their GP. There should be counselling first and time to think and reconsider. But I want the right to end my life painlessly, when I want to. If it became legal, it would allow me to prepare properly and communicate openly with my family about my wishes.

greyhips Thu 05-Jan-12 17:07:20

Open and mature discussion of asssisted suicides is to be welcomed and I for one, would like to feel that I would have a choice about whether to end my life or not if circumstances were such that I was considering this option. However, I can see that for many doctors and nurses this might prove to be an intervention that was impossible for them to carry out.

At the end of my mother's life (2 years ago) she accused me of not allowing her to die and I was informed that she could refuse treatment. However, she did not know this and I felt I was being given the choice of telling her.

I could not tell her because after a very difficult six and a half years I could not be sure whether I would have been telling her for her sake or mine.

She died some days later 89 years of age.

Cyril Thu 05-Jan-12 19:33:47

Be careful what you wish for. Every case is individual I know and opinions change because circumstances alter cases. I looked up a definition of "End of life care". I believe it used to be called "Care for the Dying" or "Palliative care", a much narrower and more easily understood concept. I discovered that it is now considered to include everyone who has a condition that will lead to their death. This would include, for instance, anyone being treated for a heart condition it seems. Such blurring of meaning leaves the population trying to discuss a subject that they are not allowed to understand while the meaning of what they are hearing keeps changing according to the understanding of the speaker. The idea that a funeral is now a happy occasion for celebrating a life I find rather hard to swallow.

It is claimed that there are just too many older people draining the finances of the country; they are not productive; they cost too much in care and benefits; they are bed blockers and housing blockers. The facts of how much the older people are saving the country in unpaid care and voluntary work is in the main ignored. The profit made by companies providing for the needs of the elderly and disabled in housing, care and mobility aids is ignored. The fact that less and less is being spent per head on elderly people is being ignored. This is just the few things that I am aware of. We are never allowed the full information but are being asked to make a decision anyway. This system used to be called brainwashing. angry

Greatnan Thu 05-Jan-12 19:54:59

My Swiss friend is a member of Exit and says I can use her address in Switzerland to join. Unfortuantely, the thing I fear most is dementia, rather than physical illness, and that is still not covered, as you have to be mentally capable of giving your consent at the time you want to die. It is not possible to leave a 'living will' saying that you want to die when you have lost your capacity to give informed consent.
I think medical professionals have always 'helped' the terminally ill by increasing their pain relief to the point where it was sure to be fatal. The Shipman case made people very wary of doctor-assisted deaths, and certainly would have deterred many doctors.
The one thing I feel most strongly about is that this should not be decided on the basis of the religious beliefs of any one group.

Nanban Thu 05-Jan-12 20:31:56

Nope, the law should not be changed - the care system should be improved so that life doesn't get to be so unbearable that death is the only option. How, now that's the difficulty. I am talking ideal world of course, but killing people in its absence is not the way.

GrannieGo Thu 05-Jan-12 21:39:33

I've just joined this group precisely so that I can say 'Bravo, Cyril'!

Annobel Thu 05-Jan-12 22:06:03

The idea that suicide is 'wrong' is outdated. I am not religious, do not believe in an after-life and my life is my own to prolong or end as it seems right to me when the time comes. Of course, if I become non-compos-mentis that is another matter and one that I would like to think that some sympathetic medical professional would consider on my behalf.

Greatnan Thu 05-Jan-12 22:21:21

I don't think any system will be able to cope with the horrible final effects of motor neurone disease and the only way to deal with some agonising terminal illnesses seems to be to keep one permanently sedated, so the patient might as well be dead.
We are not talking about killing, but simply making it possible for people to die at the time and place of their own choice. At the moment, people are having to go to Switzerland before it is necessary, so that they are still able to travel under their own steam. Why should they not be allowed to die in their own home, with all their family around them?
The law in the UK is a complete fudge, with the DPP saying assisting someone to bring about their own death is still illegal but they are unlikely to prosecute. What is the point of that? Patients need to know that they are not putting their families and friends at risk of prosecution.
Even the catholic church admits 'Thou must not kill, but need not strive, officiously to keep alive' - i.e. withdrawing artifcial life support systems is allowable as it is natural.
Doctors are trained to preserve life and often react badly to the death of a patient. My mother's last few years of life were a nightmare for her and my brother and sister who were caring for her. She was not in any physical pain, but in a constant state of anxiety because she did not know who she was or what was happening to her. She developed pneumonia at 90, and the doctor told my brother 'With god's help we have been able to save your mother'. For what? Another few months of wrenching anxiety. No thanks.

maxgran Fri 06-Jan-12 09:03:13


For some people, however good the care,.. they do not want to be trapped in a body that does not work for them, even if the pain is managed.
Its not just about care - its about someone's dignity and their right to choose when they are ready to go.

Elegran Fri 06-Jan-12 10:48:28

Greatnan I agree with all you say. It should be possible for someone who really has no life left to live (not to someone who is temporarily down - that will pass) to bypass the agonised lingering in death's waiting room. There must be adequate safeguards to protect them from greedy inheritors and lazy carers, but surely that is not beyond the abilities of legislators to set up.

Going a bit off thread - that phrase "officiously to keep alive" comes from this cynical satire on the ten commandments :-

Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

Thou shalt have one God only; who
Would be at the expense of two?
No graven images may be
Worshipped, except the currency;
Swear not at all; for, for thy curse,
Thine enemy is none the worse;
At church on Sunday to attend
Will serve to keep the world thy friend:
Honor thy parents; that is, all
From whom advancement may befall.
Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive
Officiously to keep alive:
Do not adultery commit,
Advantage rarely comes of it;
Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
When it's so lucrative to cheat;
Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly;
Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
Approves all forms of competition.

Greatnan Fri 06-Jan-12 10:53:28

Thank you , Elegran, I had forgotten where I first heard the lines.

Elegran Fri 06-Jan-12 10:59:16

Some of the other New Commandments are pretty biting too.

Nanban Fri 06-Jan-12 20:10:06

When I say care should be improved, I meant every care including the allowance of dignity and that people shouldn't ever feel 'cared for' but loved and valued whatever troubles and indignities their condition imposes on them. Life is no rehearsal for something better.

Greatnan Fri 06-Jan-12 20:23:16

I am sure we would all like care to be improved, but I think we need a change in the law, or at least some clarification.

Cyril Fri 06-Jan-12 22:00:34

Thank you GrannieGo. smile It is good to know that I am not entirely alone.

On the subject of care; I read a comment from a nurse last night in response to David Cameron's call that nurses must talk to the patients in hospital (all patients) to know if they need a drink or the toilet or anything that a nurse can help with. The nurse complained that it is boring to be required to go every hour to every patient to ask the same silly questions. She claimed the patients also found it boring. The ticking of boxes to state that every patient had been questioned by rote was also boring. Do they really have a script? Do you think that someone here is totally missing the point of human care for a sick or injured human being?

harrigran Fri 06-Jan-12 22:55:04

It is disgraceful that nurses have to be told to talk to patients. Modern nurses finding mundane tasks boring, there's a surprise! Why do some of these people go into a caring profession ? they obviously do not care. If it was a sackable offence to neglect the patients, they would soon weed out the less than diligent.

nanna2five Sat 07-Jan-12 16:40:22

My husband has just been in hospital for a Gall bladder op, which was successful he is now at home recovering, whilst in there one nurse was obsessed with everyone having to drink a lot of water, probably quite rightly but my husband found her manner very agressive. As far as David Cameron's remark about nurses speaking to patients every hour, he said there was always a nurse in his six bedded bay and he was spoken to regularly.

olliesgran Sat 07-Jan-12 17:20:04

such a difficult issue. I think things should be left as they are, as safegard quickly become tick boxes exercises, as the "safegards" put in place when abortion was legalised have become. Abortion has become the "family planning" method of choice for quite a number of women, never the intention of the new legislation. I am not against the legalisation of abortions, just pointing out the erosion of the safegards that happens overtime.
Better to make sure that doctors do not needlessly prolong life, and let people act acording to their own conscience. If I feel it to be my duty to help a love one end their life, then I would do it, and would face the concequences. The fact that you might have to justify yourself in a court of law is a safegard of sort against abuse?

maxgran Mon 09-Jan-12 10:47:30

When my son was in hospital there was a very elderly man in the next bed who could not do anything for himself.
At lunctime there was a male nurse sat along with another nurse, feeding the old man - just carelessly shoving food in his mouth whilst he chatted to his colleague. Most of the food was just dribbling out onto the bib the old chap had on and not once did the nurse speak to the patient or even look at him.
In the end it got too much for me and I asked the nurse why he was being so disrespectful and uncaring ! He did not have an answer.
When I reported it to the Ward sister she wasn't that bothered and said she would 'have a word'

greenmossgiel Mon 09-Jan-12 19:16:02

maxgran, that's a heartbreaking picture you've just painted. I worked for many years in the care of people who had disabilities, (some learning difficulties and some physical). Some of these people were elderly and some were 'young disabled'. A great many of these people were unable to eat their food by themselves, so they were given assistance to do so. We didn't call this 'feeding'. You can 'feed' babies. You can 'feed' animals. You do not 'feed' adult people. You assist them to have their meals. In doing so you afford them dignity. Mealtimes are 'social' occasions. A napkin would be laid where the person could see it, and if their mouths needed to be wiped during the meal, they would be asked first if it was alright to do so. An appropriate 'apron' would be placed over their clothes so that they were kept clean, but this was done according to their Care Plan and the person would have been asked if it was alright to put their apron on for them. It matters not one jot whether the person who is eating the food is considered by care staff to have no understanding of the world about them. They should still be included in any chatting that is going on, and should be given time to eat their meals in a respectful and dignified manner. It makes my blood boil to think that any 'caring' person should think differently. angry

Butternut Mon 09-Jan-12 19:21:51

A superb post, greenangel. thanks

Carol Mon 09-Jan-12 19:28:48

So simple and easy to carry out care with dignity - I wonder why anyone would treat people any differently? If they can bring some food to a patient or vulnerable care home resident, they can give this level of assistance....can't they?