Monday, 16 December 2013

Choice When We Need It The Most

"I don't want people's sympathy - I want people's help"
These words require a context. They were made by Paul Lamb, paralysed in an accident 23 years ago, and forced to live in continual pain. His case is now being heard at the Supreme Court, and he is arguing for his right, and for the right of others to have medical assistance to end their lives when matters become too much to endure. Listening to him being interviewed on Channel 4 news I felt both sadness and anger. More than that, I felt perplexed that we have not managed to find a legal way to make this possible. Surely with the right safeguards in place we can extend dignity and autonomy to those facing years of pain and suffering? Surely we have reached a point where we can simply admit that whilst there will always be a risk of exploitation, there is a greater good to be achieved by passing a law allowing those facing extended suffering to end their lives peacefully and on their terms? The vast majority of carers would never countenance using this as a tool to exploit the vulnerable, and for those that would I argue that the percentage is so small that it should pose no hurdle to the majority whom seek only to offer love and support and mercy at the most difficult time of all. The end of our lives is a hard enough idea to countenance, and many cannot face this reality squarely. Yet surely how we deal with this says something profound about our shared humanity, our commitment to love and kindness, and our willingness to alleviate suffering as much as it is within our power. We would not allow an animal to suffer in the way that some humans have to. We spare them rather than heap indignity upon indignity. Has the time not come to take the brave step and do all that we can to provide end of life choice? We all desire personal dignity and a certain amount of autonomy, and indeed we take these things for granted when the skies are blue and all is plain sailing. Can we not find a means to extend it to those whom need it most? To those presently unable to choose when or how to bring their lives to a dignified end? Our failure to do this breaks my heart, and my sincere hope is that people such as Paul Lamb will be extended the right to make one of the most profound choices a human can make. The time to choose their passing.

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