De­bate: Eu­thana­sia

No. 1 Magazine - - SCOTLAND’S NO.1 -

Hav­ing spo­ken to a num­ber of nurses, they all agreed that pa­tients should be al­lowed to opt for as­sisted sui­cide.

YES! Meghan Mccor­mack, a Scot­tish jour­nal­ist from Dundee thinks ev­ery­one should have the right to die if their qual­ity of life is greatly di­min­ished...

Eu­thana­sia is a sub­ject not to be taken lightly, so be­fore we kick off, let me de­scribe ex­actly where I stand. I be­lieve that hu­mans should have a choice in how their life will end, should their life come to a point where they can no longer en­dure the qual­ity of life they are cur­rently af­forded. I be­lieve that this choice should be made in the safety of a rig­or­ous and reg­u­lated frame­work, and that this choice should be fa­cil­i­tated in an en­vi­ron­ment of com­fort and un­der­stand­ing. Hu­man life is pre­cious and unique in ev­ery be­ing it in­hab­its. We each shape our lives in dif­fer­ent ways through the choices that we make. How­ever, hu­man life ceases to be hu­man life with­out its fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment of choice. Dy­ing is one of the most im­por­tant events in our lives. It’s up there with the big ones. So should we not have some say in the way that it goes down? Be­fore div­ing head first into writ­ing about this sub­ject in a na­tional mag­a­zine for ev­ery­one to see (eek), I re­searched ex­actly what eu­thana­sia leg­is­la­tion was most re­cently pro­posed in Scot­land. To my sur­prise, and prob­a­bly to yours too, eu­thana­sia was never on the menu. As­sisted sui­cide was. In the As­sisted Sui­cide (Scot­land) Bill, the late Margo Macdon­ald had cam­paigned for those deemed by med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to have a se­verely life short­en­ing or ter­mi­nal ill­ness, to be given the choice of end­ing their life in a safe en­vi­ron­ment. To do this, a per­son would first in­di­cate their wishes on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, and two doc­tors would cer­tify their abil­ity to make this de­ci­sion. The per­son would then end their life by their own hand, in the pres­ence of a fa­cil­i­ta­tor. Doc­tors were only re­quired to con­firm the pa­tient’s con­di­tion and abil­ity to make a de­ci­sion, re­mem­ber it, and un­der­stand the con­se­quences. Doc­tors and nurses could opt out of tak­ing part, and re­fer the pa­tient onto an­other health­care pro­fes­sional, just as the process stands with abor­tion to­day. The bill was re­jected in 2015. This is the bill and process I be­lieve in. I think this way; a pa­tient could not be pres­sured by fam­ily mem­bers or oth­ers who might gain

fi­nan­cially. I don’t be­lieve as­sisted sui­cide should be an op­tion if some­one is in­ca­pable of mak­ing or in­di­cat­ing a de­ci­sion, purely as a safe­guard. How­ever, I think that those who can in­di­cate their de­ci­sion and are in the right frame of mind to do so, should have the choice. I think if they choose to end their suf­fer­ing, they should be al­lowed to do so in Scot­land, in an en­vi­ron­ment of their choos­ing. I know what you’re think­ing. How on earth would they find staff to help fa­cil­i­tate this? As if ser­vices like hos­pice care were not men­tally tax­ing enough, how could some­one work a 37.5 hour week, end­ing peo­ple’s lives? I thought the same, so I spoke to some nurses. If I’m per­fectly honest, I was as sur­prised as you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be at their re­sponse. From the small num­ber of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als I spoke to, they were all in agree­ment that end of life care should in­clude the pa­tient choice to opt for as­sisted sui­cide. Car­ing for some­one means to re­spect their wishes, and as­sist them in the choices they make. Not only would this pro­vide a ser­vice that, I have been re­li­ably in­formed, is of­ten re­quested, it would free up hos­pice and pal­lia­tive re­sources for those who wish to live out to the end of their nat­u­ral life. Plot twist, I don’t think I my­self would opt for as­sisted sui­cide. But who am I to deny oth­ers their choice? In say­ing that, I don’t think that any­one would know their opin­ion un­til they were in that sit­u­a­tion. In my ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in a pal­lia­tive care en­vi­ron­ment, and from wit­ness­ing first hand pal­lia­tive care for my loved ones, I am aware of how lit­tle con­trol peo­ple have, and how much this can emo­tion­ally pain them. So why are we re­strict­ing our loved one’s fun­da­men­tal choice at the very time they need it most? Life is a beautiful gift, and it should be lived and ended in love, dig­nity and re­spect.

NO! Kirsty Mcken­zie is jour­nal­ist and blog­ger who says it’s not up to the healthy to de­ter­mine who’s life is worth liv­ing...

Let’s get this straight. Every­body has the right to die. Full stop, put the ket­tle on, I might as well end the ar­gu­ment here. But I can’t. Be­cause like most things in life, death is not that sim­ple. While in a sense, every­body already has the right to die, that’s no rea­son to give the State’s for­mal ap­proval to it. As­sisted dy­ing is pro­hib­ited un­der the Sui­cide Act of 1961 and in 2015, MPS over­whelm­ingly re­jected a bill that would en­able ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients with less than six months to live to be given as­sis­tance to end their life. But why? Eu­thana­sia, though sad and trau­matic, is also a sub­ject most of us are fa­mil­iar with. We read about the cam­paign­ers seek­ing to change the law and even watch eu­thana­sia sto­ry­lines un­fold on our favourite soaps. From Hay­ley Crop­per’s dev­as­tat­ing bat­tle with pan­cre­atic can­cer in Corona­tion Street to Jack­son Walsh’s death in Emmerdale – eu­thana­sia is never far from our minds or our head­lines. Per­haps it is thanks to these touch­ing TV drama­ti­sa­tions that most of us are in favour of eu­thana­sia. Re­search shows that the ma­jor­ity of the Bri­tish pub­lic agree that eu­thana­sia should be le­galised – 82 per cent sup­port the choice of as­sisted dy­ing for ter­mi­nally ill adults. De­spite the elec­torate’s sup­port for eu­thana­sia, politi­cians re­main hes­i­tant to fol­low pub­lic opin­ion. Among a va­ri­ety of ob­jec­tions, MPS were con­cerned that in other coun­tries where as­sisted sui­cide has been le­galised, the num­ber of peo­ple turn­ing to eu­thana­sia is grow­ing at a rapid rate. For ex­am­ple, when Bel­gium le­galised the prac­tice in 2002, the fol­low­ing year fig­ures show that just 235 Bel­gians were eu­thanised. But since then the num­bers have grown now stand at around 1,400. Sim­i­larly, in the Nether­lands the num­ber of cases has dou­bled over the past decade. Eu­thana­sia now ac­counts for a shock­ing 1 in 30 deaths. Most con­cern­ing of all is that the coun­try had ex­tended eu­thana­sia laws to en­com­pass an ever-widen­ing group. The laws no longer just in­clude peo­ple with ter­mi­nal ill­nesses but definitions of un­bear­able suf­fer­ing now ex­tend to men­tal and emo­tional dis­tress. Psy­chi­atric pa­tients are among those helped to die by Dutch physi­cians and if we were to adopt the same law, eu­thana­sia would ac­count for more than 20,000 such deaths each year in the UK. The dan­ger here is that le­gal­is­ing eu­thana­sia cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment where as­sisted death is not the ex­cep­tion, but the norm. Once the law is in place, definitions will be ex­tended, in­ter­pre­ta­tions will be dis­torted and safeguards will be slashed – putting the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our so­ci­ety at risk. How can we be cer­tain that we are act­ing on the de­sires of the per­son that is suf­fer­ing? How can we be sure that an un­well in­di­vid­ual has not been co­erced or ma­nip­u­lated into think­ing that death is the only op­tion? It’s no se­cret that Bri­tain is in the depths of a care cri­sis and there is a real dan­ger that eu­thana­sia would open the flood­gates; al­low­ing as­sisted death to not only be seen as an ac­cept­able op­tion but also a cheap so­lu­tion. Tellingly, an Amer­i­can sur­vey found that sup­port for le­gal­i­sa­tion is high­est among peo­ple aged 18 to 44, and low­est among the over-70s. It’s easy to as­sume when you are young and healthy that death is less fright­en­ing than pain. But un­til we have en­dured ill health or old age, who are we to say that a life lived in pain isn’t worth liv­ing? The so-called safeguards pro­posed by cam­paign­ers re­main pa­per-thin. There are no lie-de­tec­tor tests. Con­sent to eu­thana­sia can’t al­ways be guar­an­teed. Un­til it can, we should be putting our ef­forts into bet­ter pal­lia­tive care – not ask­ing our doc­tors to as­sist in sui­cides. When a healthy or young per­son says they want to take their life, we see it as a tragedy and do ev­ery­thing we can to help pre­vent the loss of life. Shouldn’t we ex­tend the same cour­tesy to ev­ery­one, no mat­ter their age or their ill­ness?

Find Kirsty’s blog at www.hel­lot­wobirds.com

By le­gal­is­ing as­sisted sui­cide, we’d be putting the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our so­ci­ety at risk.

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