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Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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Wilson
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#21 Postby Wilson » June 18th, 2011, 7:22 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

AlexVocat wrote:Both programs seem upsetting to watch but that's bound to occur because we are all only human. The important, logical point is that it was these person's choices. I still don't like the idea of a AD/euthanasia law only being restricted to an ill-elite. A right to one's own life is also a right end one's own life so I don't see the problem with it being applicable to anyone of sane mind.


I mostly agree, but we don't want to make it so easy that someone depressed by a temporary situation can end his life. It's in the nature of chronic depression that it waxes and wanes, and somone in the depths may decide to end it all, but if that doesn't happen, a month later he may be in good spirits.

A young person traumatized by a love affair gone bad may decide to kill himself, partly out of grief, partly out of a desire to make the other person feel bad. Don't make it too easy for him, because a year later he may have a new love interest and life may be golden.

That said, I think that there are some people who are severely depressed and it never gets a lot better and their torture is as bad or worse than someone with a chronic physical illness. At some point such a person should have the legal right to kill himself in a painless, tidy way. But safeguards should be in place.

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Fia
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#22 Postby Fia » June 18th, 2011, 8:37 pm

lewist wrote:What is wrong is that people have to go to Switzerland for a dignified and legal death.


Quite lewist. I watched the programme and under current legislation can't fault the two people featured for their decision. As has been pointed out, they had the means to take that path. To be legal folk have to fulfil the conditions - which include being able to get there and having clear capacity - means that many are forced to choose to die before I would suggest was necessary. Had the legal framework, and properly funded support mechanisms, been available in the UK I reckon these two men would still be alive.

Sir Terry also brought up this point. He suffers from a form of dementia so his capacity to agree a la the Dignitas model could well also force him to cease living much earlier than the enjoyment he could still gain from life. I can see his conversation with Mort:

GOODNESS, WHAT A RUSH TO MEET YOU, TERRY. WASN'T EXPECTING YOU FOR A WHILE YET.

I know, but there was no legal option of dignity unless I surprised you.

THAT'S A DARN SHAME. THE LAST CHAPTERS OF YOUR LIFE WOULD HAVE MADE GOOD LIVING.

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lewist
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#23 Postby lewist » June 19th, 2011, 7:41 am

For terminal patients, palliative care can involve a lot of pain relief towards the end. I wonder where the intravenous dose of morphine stops being pain relief and becomes a little assistant to help the sufferer over the edge?
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

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Griblet
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#24 Postby Griblet » June 19th, 2011, 10:09 am

I'm not going to give any details, but I have seen this happen.
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Fia
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#25 Postby Fia » June 19th, 2011, 8:17 pm

lewist wrote:For terminal patients, palliative care can involve a lot of pain relief towards the end. I wonder where the intravenous dose of morphine stops being pain relief and becomes a little assistant to help the sufferer over the edge?

There is a very fine line for doctors acting legally and actually controlling the pain. All of us involved in palliative care know that there is nothing that can be done to stop the patients dying. The whole point is to control pain and distress, avoid pressure sores, rigorous mouth care and to care for the family. The medication to control the pain of a palliative cancer patient may well hasten their death. But no professional I've ever met has had any qualms about ensuring the patient has as gentle a cancer death as possible.

It's far more difficult with other diseases such as Parkinsons, MS, Huntingdons, or stroke sufferers though. Arguably even more difficult with dementia, the dilemma Terry faces.

I think it is essential that we find a legal way to allow those who wish to be as gently midwived out of life as they were into it. I can't quite believe in that the 21st century we are not capable of working legal safeguards. I have discussed my living will at great length with my GP and solicitor, and I know they will do their very best for me should the need arise. But they have both been very clear that until the law is changed their hands may be tied.

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#26 Postby Wilson » June 20th, 2011, 7:53 am

What would all of you do if you had ALS or Huntington's Chorea or some other horrible disease that was making you miserable with no hope of improvement - and you lived in a place where euthanasia was against the law? My wife and I are so dedicated to each other that if one of us was in that situation and unable to end things by him or herself, I hope that the other would - one way or the other - find a way, regardless of the law.

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AlexVocat
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#27 Postby AlexVocat » June 20th, 2011, 3:56 pm

I'm not sure Wilson. I think I wouldn't want my other half to be implicated and penalised. It's enough that I'm going but to leave her with the possible charge of assisted suicide? In some ways that is the horror of the current law. Imagine being that other half who can do something, who knows how much their partner wants their life to end, but who can't assist because of fear of a inpersonal law that fails to see the situation for what it is. You do the right thing, you've seen your partner die even though you know it's what he/she wanted, and yet can be implicated as a murderer. How unjust.
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Fia
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#28 Postby Fia » June 20th, 2011, 8:27 pm

My answer to Wilson is similar to AV's. To my mind it's just not fair to put your partner through that unless it was pretty watertight. I don't have a partner, so although in my living will I have a non-family advocate to speak for me there's no way I could ask her or my daughters to put themselves at risk by assisting me to die. The law must change so our loved ones are not put in this insidious position.

Many moons ago I had a friend waste many months in prison. He was an office bearer of Exit and they published a practical leaflet on how one could be helped to die, which, at the time seemed the only sensible response to the clear human need. Times and attitudes are changing, thank goodness, albeit not nearly fast enough.

Debbie Purdy has made great strides in this with when nearly a year ago
Five Law Lords ruled the Director of Public Prosecutions must specify when a person might face prosecution.
although the further clarification promised last spring has not materialised as far as I know...

Wilson
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#29 Postby Wilson » June 20th, 2011, 8:56 pm

I wouldn't put my wife in legal danger if I could help it, but if she were the one in misery, I'd do what was best for her. I'm confident that I could do so without great risk to myself of arrest, but even if not, I'd take my chances with the legal system. Nowadays there's enough jury nullification in the US that I think it would be difficult to get a conviction if it was obvious that the act was done out of compassion, solely for the purpose of ending suffering.

Of course it's easy to say what I would do in a situation that isn't likely to come up.

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#30 Postby Fia » June 20th, 2011, 9:34 pm

Wilson, I apologise, I forgot you are in the US. I assume you don't live in Oregon or Washington where this would not be an issue. Indeed I wonder if there is a moneyed assisted dying trail to these states as there is to Switzerland in Europe, with all the intendant difficulties?

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#31 Postby Wilson » June 21st, 2011, 7:17 pm

Fia wrote:Wilson, I apologise, I forgot you are in the US. I assume you don't live in Oregon or Washington where this would not be an issue. Indeed I wonder if there is a moneyed assisted dying trail to these states as there is to Switzerland in Europe, with all the intendant difficulties?

No apology needed, Fia; that was an important point. Oregon restricts its "death with dignity" to its own residents; otherwise there would be a flood and national outrage. The man who died in Washington state and made his wife promise to try to change the law there was unable to establish legal residency in Oregon. I don't know what length of time constitutes residency in Oregon or what the full requirements are, but I believe that your primary residence must be in Oregon at least, and that wouldn't be practical for most people.

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Fia
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#32 Postby Fia » June 21st, 2011, 9:19 pm

Hmm, Wilson, I've checked Washington, and they have allowed physician assisted suicide since February 2009, and there's another too: Montana

The Supreme Court in Montana has ruled that nothing in the state's law prevents patients from seeking medical assistance to commit suicide.
The ruling paves the way for Montana to become the third US state alongside Washington and Oregon to allow patients to seek the procedure.
...Doctors will now be able to prescribe the necessary drugs to the terminally ill without fear of prosecution.


It's a jolly good start, just another 49 states and all of Europe bar Switzerland and the Netherlands to go... Then none of us will need to worry about travelling or residency :)

Wilson
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#33 Postby Wilson » June 21st, 2011, 11:11 pm

One of the stories in "How to die in Oregon" followed the woman I mentioned whose husband asked her as a dying wish to campaign for an assisted suicide law in Washington state. She was part of a movement which was successful; the law was changed by a state amendment approved by a vote of the people. I hadn't heard that Montana was in the fold as well; that's great news.

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#34 Postby Katherine » June 22nd, 2011, 12:59 am

I've always believed that people should have the right to a dignified death, and level of health that these people still had really got to me. I completely agree with the safeguards that are in place, and I believe them to be necessary because there's always the chance that someone could change their mind and I hate to think of people unable to communicate the fact that they want to live. For this reason I'm aware that people who choose to get assistance to end their life are always going to have to go a bit earlier and miss out on perhaps a few more weeks.
However, the fact that the government won't change the law on assisted dying here in the UK just means that people are having to end their lives even earlier than they would have to if it was possible to do it here. As long as there is somewhere in the world where people can go, they're always going to do it; the fact that it's illegal isn't stopping anyone, it's just shortening lives.

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#35 Postby AlexVocat » June 22nd, 2011, 3:29 pm

So very true Katherine. Well put. :smile:
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Wilson
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#36 Postby Wilson » June 22nd, 2011, 7:18 pm

Katherine wrote:As long as there is somewhere in the world where people can go, they're always going to do it; the fact that it's illegal isn't stopping anyone, it's just shortening lives.


Actually, Katherine, I don't think that's true. It's a daunting task to arrange assisted suicide where it's illegal, and someone's who's very ill most likely won't have the energy to step through hoops. In the case of the Washington man mentioned above with brain and spinal cord cancer, he died a terrible death because his state at that time didn't allow euthanasia. And he had more financial resources than the average person.

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#37 Postby Katherine » June 22nd, 2011, 7:34 pm

Wilson wrote:Actually, Katherine, I don't think that's true. It's a daunting task to arrange assisted suicide where it's illegal, and someone's who's very ill most likely won't have the energy to step through hoops. In the case of the Washington man mentioned above with brain and spinal cord cancer, he died a terrible death because his state at that time didn't allow euthanasia. And he had more financial resources than the average person.


Well I agree that depending on the circumstances some people are going to be unwilling to make the huge amount of effort required, and I suppose you could use the argument that if it becomes too easy people will put less thought into the decision than they do now. There are still a lot of people who still do decide that they want to go overseas to do it though, and I would say that the people who are unable to arrange assisted suicide due to the difficulty of it, and the people who work very hard in the last few weeks of your life to make it happen, are both cases for legalising it.

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#38 Postby Alan H » June 23rd, 2011, 12:41 am

Don't forget that the cost is a barrier to many. I think the clinic charges £10,000.
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jaywhat
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#39 Postby jaywhat » June 23rd, 2011, 5:46 am

Alan H wrote:Don't forget that the cost is a barrier to many. I think the clinic charges £10,000.


Yes. If one arranges a contact killing (for oneself) it would be a lot cheaper (and, I suppose, messier). Where are all those suicide pills that top spies carried with them at all times?

Watching the moving Pratchett film and seeing the final moments involving the drinking of half a glass of what looked like water followed by another one later seemed a very undramatic finale to a hugly impressive build up.

The big word we keep coming back to sems to be 'safeguards'.

Wilson
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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#40 Postby Wilson » June 23rd, 2011, 7:56 pm

jaywhat wrote:Yes. If one arranges a contact killing (for oneself) it would be a lot cheaper (and, I suppose, messier). Where are all those suicide pills that top spies carried with them at all times?


Let's brainstorm for a moment. What if an individual had unlimited access to barbiturates of the type that they use in Oregon and Washington and possibly in Europe. How could he offer a euthanasia service without getting arrested? What sort of underground network might spring up to shield the supplier from legal harm? Who would be legally liable for murder if caught - the drug dealer, the preparer of the potion (if the patient were unable), the family members who attend? Of course once the process goes underground it would be subject to abuses, and it wouldn't be impossible that some of the deaths would actually be foul murder rather than motivated by compassion.

Food for thought.

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Re: Euthanasia - On Terry Pratchett's 'Choosing to Die'

#41 Postby Laurence » July 23rd, 2011, 11:32 pm

What an informative and inspiring discussion.

I would want this possibility for myself, if needed and for all members of the community.

The barbiturates sound just the job.

Thank youse


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