Friday, 6 January 2012
I have very mixed views on the topic of assisted suicide and the video above, of Jeremy Paxman interviewing Terry Pratchett, gives food for thought on both sides of the debate. I found it moving when Paxman asked about the sanctity of life and Pratchett answered with his thoughts about the dignity of life. I do believe that life is precious, that it is sacred - I also believe that quality of life is sometimes more important than the quantity of life; that life "at any cost" may in itself be demeaning. I am not sure we ever have the "right" to take a life or to take our own lives - at the same time I worry that it is a form of barbarism to compel people to live when their lives may have become unbearable. I prefer the idea of offering support and good palliative care to the terminally ill - and yet I strongly suspect that even the best palliative care cannot offer adequate relief from suffering and distress in some cases. In short, I am a mass of contradictions on this matter, it is one of those moral issues which presents itself to me in shades of grey rather than in black and white.
I do believe that those who support assisted dying are generally compassionate and believe that to offer people this option enhances human dignity. I would not be able to call such people "murderers", even if I disagreed with their reasoning. Indeed, I know people who support the right to die - often as a result of witnessing the suffering of loved ones- and they are not "murderous" people. Fortunately, I have never had personal experience of the kind of degenerative diseases that lead people to advocate the right to die. I am reluctant to speak out strongly on issues such as this one when I am in many ways ignorant and have not been personally affected. I can also safely say that I sincerely hope I remain untouched by an issue so fraught with pain and anguish for all my days and I hesitate to judge those who have not been so fortunate.