No­body, re­gard­less of their mo­ti­va­tion, has the right to force some­one to stay alive when they are in pain

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

we will have to tackle, even if the po­lit­i­cal ap­petite is not there.

We have an age­ing pop­u­la­tion, a fail­ing health care sys­tem and while Ir­ish hos­pices do gen­uinely hum­bling, in­cred­i­ble work (some of the great­est, most de­cent peo­ple I have ever met were those who staff hos­pices in this coun­try), we are fac­ing into a de­mo­graphic time bomb which is only go­ing to get worse.

We’re not just ter­ri­fied by death in this coun­try, we’re ter­ri­fied of even talk­ing about it and when the con­ver­sa­tion turns to eu­thana­sia, as it in­evitably does, peo­ple have a ten­dency to stick their fin­gers in their ears and hope the mat­ter will just go away. But it won’t.

If there was one thing Dr Goodall said which I’d dis­agree with, it was his as­ser­tion that it was re­li­gious sen­si­bil­i­ties which stopped Aussie politi­cians from in­tro­duc­ing le­gal eu­thana­sia.

Ob­vi­ously, re­li­gious peo­ple will be mo­ti­vated by their re­li­gious be­lief, but opposition to as­sisted sui­cide is not the sole pre­serve of the faith­ful.

In much the same way that plenty of athe­ists are op­posed to abor­tion on moral grounds, the same ap­plies to this vexed is­sue.

But it all boils to one point — no­body, re­gard­less of their mo­ti­va­tion, has the right to force some­one to stay alive when they are in pain; pain they know will only get worse.

‘My body, my choice’ doesn’t ap­ply only to abor­tion, it ap­plies to all of us and any­one who has ever watched a loved one strug­gle through the last few months of their life, when they would rather be dead, knows that it is ob­scene to keep some­one alive against their will.

Of course, doc­tors un­der­stand this bet­ter than any­one else, which is why so many of us will have heard a medic sug­gest­ing they can make some­one ‘more com­fort­able’, which is sim­ply a eu­phemism for pump­ing more mor­phine into their sys­tem.

We all have an in­nate sur­vival in­stinct, which is why vol­un­tary death is so cul­tur­ally stig­ma­tised.

But as Dr Goodall and so many oth­ers in his predica­ment have re­minded us, some­times you just know it’s time to go, as hard as that may seem. Forc­ing some­one to spend their last months in a pain­ful, undig­ni­fied limbo is sick and cruel — no mat­ter how ‘com­pas­sion­ate’ you like to think your ar­gu­ment is.

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