An editorial in today’s Observer argues that UK law should be changed to permit those who wish to end their own life but are unable to do so due to severe disability or health conditions, to be assisted to die provided that they have made their wish to terminate their existence clear. This is a highly emotive subject with people of good will ranged on both sides of the debate. To be frank I am torn on the issue. On the one hand I can see the compelling arguments for allowing individuals to make informed choices about when they wish to die. It is no longer a crime in the UK to attempt suicide and people who do not suffer from severe disabilities or health conditions which prevent them from taking their own lives can (and do) choose to end their lives. Why should not the same choice be extended to individuals who lack the physical capacity to end their own lives (I.E. why should not such people have the right to assisted dying or suicide)?
On the other hand Hitler’s Third Reich casts a baleful shadow over the debate. Under the Nazi’s T-4 Programme many thousands of people with physical and mental disabilities where murdered by the state. The victim’s families where told that their relative had died of some ficticious disease and inaccurate death certificates where sent to grieving families. In democratic societies it is highly unlikely that such things could occur, however genuine concerns exist regarding the possibility of unscrupulous family members putting pressure on a vunnerable person to end (or give permission for the termination of) their own life. My concern is that any rules to prevent such abuses could be circumvented.
The present system is far from satisfactory we do, however need to tread with great care when considering any changes to the current law.
For the Observer’s article please visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/24/observer-editorial-in-support-of-assisted-dying
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