Euthanasia and mercy killings are back in the news again, largely thanks to my favourite author, Terry Pratchett.
Terry Pratchett has a rare form of Alzheimers and wants to shuffle off the mortal coil on his own terms, in a chair in his garden listening to music taking an overdose of painkillers with alcohol. And why not?
He said he detests the idea that the government can choose whether you live or die but accepts that they have a duty to protect vulnerable people and so he proposes a tribunal that will decide on whether a person can choose to die or not.
My uncle died a few years ago after cruelly being kept alive for about a decade. He had Huntington’s which is superficially similar to alzheimers and parkinsons but it doesn’t cause dementia, it just renders the body useless. By the time my uncle died he couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, couldn’t control his bladder or bowels. He was kept alive for years in this state – his body didn’t work but his mind did. He must have gone insane, there’s no way the human mind could cope.
If you kept an animal alive in that state you would probably be prosecuted by the RSPCA for animal cruelty so why is it not considered cruelty to do it to a human?
People should be allowed to make living wills while they are still of sound mind setting out the exact circumstances in which they would like to be put out of their misery. The law needs to be changed to allow people to control their own ultimate destiny and to allow friends and relatives to help them do so. The euthanasia tribunal idea is a good one and it should be coupled with a legal definition of quality of life, making it unequivocally clear when it is kinder to put someone down, to use the veterinary term.
My uncle shouldn’t have been kept alive for all those years with no quality of life and I would hope that someone would do the honourable thing and bump me off if ever I was in a similar position.
p.s. In case anyone is wondering, my dad didn’t get Huntingtons and it can’t skip a generation so I can’t get it.