Category Archives: Assisted suicide

The Euthanasia Coaster

Thursday, 28 April 2011

I don’t know if you ever visit the Exit euthansia blog, or Exit’s website. Highly recommended. Exit is not Dignity in Dying, which used to be called Exit. Exit is the breakaway, ‘fiercely independent’ Scottish-based group which advocates euthanasia in the UK, has members worldwide, and has just published an updated edition of its guide to self-deliverance, Five Last Acts. I wish I had the money to buy a copy.

The Exit blog is unfailingly thought provoking and well informed. If it’s not on your blogroll, add it.

Yesterday’s post about the Euthanasia Coaster is fascinating. Euthanasia Coaster?

Euthanasia Coaster is a hypothetical euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to humanely—with elegance and euphoria—take the life of a human being. Riding the coaster’s track, the rider is subjected to a series of intensive motion elements that induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness and eventually death. Thanks to the marriage of the advanced cross-disciplinary research in aerospace medicine, mechanical engineering, material technologies and of course gravity, the fatal journey is made pleasing, elegant and meaningful. Celebrating the limits of the human body but also the liberation from the horizontal life, this ‘kinetic sculpture’ is in fact the ultimate roller coaster. John Allen, former president of the famed Philadelphia Toboggan Company, once said that “the ultimate roller coaster is built when you send out twenty-four people and they all come back dead. This could be done, you know.” [Source]

If that’s whetted your appetite to find out exactly how the Euthanasia Coaster kills you thrillingly, go visit the blog.

 

A time to die

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Every week in the Spectator magazine Peter Jones takes an occurrence or development in contemporary society and politics and considers it in the light of what the ancients did when faced with the same circumstances. This week he considers the art of dying. I’d now bung you a link but I can’t: the Speccie does not unleash its content online til it has gathered some dust. The joy of the Spectator lies in the quality of its writing (sadly not its politics). It’s almost worth the cover price for Mr Jones alone. I hope he won’t mind a quote-strewn precis.

He begins:

“So everyone is going to live much longer and will therefore have to work much longer to pay for their pensions. But what is so wrong with dying, Greeks and Romans would ask?

“Homeric heroes sought to compensate for death with eternal heroic glory … Plato argued that the soul was immortal. The Roman poet Lucretius thought that was the problem. For him, life was an incipient hell because of man’s eternal desire for novelty. So as soon as he had fulfilled one desire, he was immediately gawping after another. What satisfaction could there be in that? The soul was mortal, he argued, and death, therefore, should be welcomed as a blessed release.”

Cicero concurred. We run out of things to interest us and are glad to go. “A character in one of Euripides’ tragedies put it more succinctly: ‘I can’t stand people who try to prolong life with foods and potions and spells to keep death at bay. Once they’ve lost their use on earth they should clear off and die and leave it to the young.’

“For Seneca the question was whether ‘one was lengthening one’s own life — or one’s death.’ “

Jones concludes: “Marcus Aurelius put it beautifully: ‘Spend these fleeting moments as Nature would have you spend them, and then go to your rest with a good grace, as an olive falls in season, with a blessing for the earth that bore it and a thanksgiving to the tree that gave it life.’”

Right to die – when is it, and do you have a?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Assisted dying, self-deliverance, euthanasia and allowing people to die naturally – all these are hot topics which can only get hotter. I’ve just had this email from CareNotKilling, and anti-assisted dying org:

Channel 4 are giving you the opportunity to voice your views on a series of short films about euthanasia, which are being shown on Channel 4 next week.

Next week ‘4thought.tv’ are exploring attitudes towards euthanasia, and asking whether it should be legalised in Britain.

The 90 second films will be airing after the news every evening on Channel 4 (around 7:55pm) next week.  Viewers can then share their own thoughts and feelings about euthanasia, respond to the individual films and reply to other viewer comments on their website www.4thought.tv

Channel 4 are interested in all thoughts related to the films, whether you agree with the speaker or strongly oppose what they say, and hope people will also share personal views and and experiences.

This is a great opportunity to make your views known on such an important issue.

Please watch and respond to the films online by going to: http://www.4thought.tv/

I’d not come across this Channel 4 slot before, and as I surveyed the schedule I reckoned I probably wouldn’t be able to make time to watch most of them. No worries. I can watch them online later and I can still leave a comment. I’ll be doing that for sure.

Over at the Exit blog I read this:

The religious right are already organised: the Independent Catholic News is urging people to respond online and the Church of Scotland is using its blog and facebook. The pro-choice lobby represents 80% of the population, yet when it comes to expressing our thoughts we are way behind. [Source]

Reading that after getting my email from CareNotKilling, I can see what they mean. Exit wants those who support its cause to be sure to get online.

Whichever side you’re on, you may want to do the same. Here’s the schedule:

Lesley Close – sister of an assisted suicide
Monday 17 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Lesley Close’s brother John had motor neurone disease. In 2003 Lesley accompanied him to a suicide clinic in Switzerland where she witnessed his ‘dignified and amazing’ death.

Martin Amis – luminary of the literary world
Tuesday 18 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Author Martin Amis believes that euthanasia is an evolutionary inevitability. Martin caused controversy by putting forward the idea of suicide booths on street corners and thinks that future generations will look back at how we have abandoned people to their longevity as ‘barbaric’.

Motor neurone disease makes my life richer
Thursday 20 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Michael Wenham was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He believes his life is now richer than it was before his illness and that euthanasia is a selfish act that fails to take account of the feelings of those who are left behind.

A right-to-die activist speaks out
Friday 21 January, 7.25PM on Channel 4
Dr Michael Irwin believes that it is a doctor’s duty to ease a patient’s suffering and wants to see a change in the law that would allow doctor-assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill. He has personally accompanied patients to the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland to help them end their lives.

A terminally ill doctor speaks out
Saturday 22 January, 6.50PM on Channel 4
Dr Ann McPherson has terminal cancer. Ann hopes that, when the time comes, she will be able to have the option of an assisted death in Britain.

A Sunday opponent hopes to round things off
Sunday 23 January, 7.55PM on Channel 4
Kevin Fitzpatrick believes that legalising euthanasia in Britain would be a terrible mistake and that many more disabled people would die as a result. Kevin believes that we should put our energies into improving palliative care services rather than trying to make it easier for people to hasten their deaths.

Helpers fail, comforts flee

Monday, 20 September 2010

I enjoyed this piece by David Nobbs, creator of Reginald Perrin, in yesterday’s Observer. Here are some extracts.

My mother died on 7 August 1995. I didn’t realise, that day, my life had changed … My mother died, as she had lived, unselfishly. After she’d died, my wife Susan and I were just in time for Sunday lunch at my aunt’s. That may sound frivolous, but it was so typical of her I actually believe that some unconscious influence was at work.

She had lived about as happily as it was possible to live in the 20th century, for almost 95 years. She had been ill and in hospital only for the last two weeks. At times, during those two weeks, she had been restless and disturbed, but that Sunday morning she became more and more peaceful. Her breathing began to get slower. She had worried for Wales, and I had no doubt this contributed heavily to her worry lines, but now all those lines disappeared – her face became smooth and she looked young again. Her breathing faded and slowed so imperceptibly it was hard to recognise the moment she actually died.

I can honestly say, on reflection, that witnessing her death took away from me all fear of my death. (Not of my wife’s death. I fear loss dreadfully.)

That doesn’t mean I welcome the ravages of old age. I fight against them. In my 70s I have taken on a fitness trainer and last month I began to tweet! I hope that I will not die in great pain or in an old people’s home. But I no longer fear the moment when I will cease to exist

But the most important thing that happened to me in the wake of my mother’s death wasn’t the strengthening of my feelings against religion. It was the strengthening of my feelings for disbelief. I believe that there are just as many of the “Christian virtues” to be found among the faithless as the faithful…

Loss of faith. It sounds so negative. I didn’t lose faith. I gained faith. Faith in people. I am proud to describe myself as a humanist.

This growing conviction has had quite an effect on my writing – on the novels, at least. I am sometimes described as a comic novelist, but I describe myself simply as a novelist. I write about life, and in life I see much humour and much tragedy, and that is what I write about.

An irony of all this is that if my mother could hear me, could read this, she would be very distressed and would be horrified to think that her death had led me down this road. Well, there it is, it’s what has happened and luckily I believe (know?) that she can’t.

Read the entire article here.

David Nobbs talks about how he is dealing with ‘the ravages of old age.’ I guess that, as we embark on an era when, for most of us, we’ve never had it so old, there will be more and more writers dealing with if and how ageing can be made endurable as physical debility advances and we are deserted by all interest in sex and shopping. A book which has been well reviewed is Jane Miller’s Crazy Age: Thoughts on Being Old. There’s article by her in the Guardian here. The social problems thrown up by an ageing population will become more and more apparent in the next 20 years and I suppose the answers to them are, for the time being, unthinkable. But not for very much longer.

Over on BBC Radio 4 tonight at 8pm there’s a challenging-sounding if uncheerful-sounding  programme, Exit Strategy, by Jenny Cuffe about assisted dying and self-deliverance. The debate over whether we should legalise assisted suicide is not going away. But whilst we flounder over the grey areas of the British legal system, a radical Australian doctor has found a loophole. Because physically helping someone to die is illegal, he is providing information to paying participants on how to die peacefully and painlessly kill themselves … Talking with geriatricians, psychologists, campaigners and elderly people she explores society’s last great taboo: death. She asks why so many people approaching old age are scared of dying. Are they being failed by our care system? Are advances in medicine extending quantity but not quality of life? Or is even discussing assisted suicide for the elderly symptomatic of an ageist society that undervalues the old? Should the ‘I want’ generation be able to make the choice of when we die and have the right to plan our own Exit Strategy?” If you miss it, you can always catch it on the Listen Again.

Practicalities and suicide pacts

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Here’s a highly recommended post over at the Exit blog: Heartache of a death not shared — a helium suicide fails.

It discusses this story as reported by the Times:

Early one morning in September, William Stanton heard footsteps coming up the stairs of his cottage in Somerset. He knew who it was and panicked. “I shouted out: ‘Go away, Nigel, leave me to it, leave me to it!’”

Nigel, a neighbour and family friend, did not go away. He came into the bedroom and found Stanton in distress and his wife Angela lying dead with a plastic bag over her head.

The Stantons had made a pact to end their lives together and put it into effect just days after the director of public prosecutions revealed how he would apply the law prohibiting assisted suicide. It did not work out as they planned and stands as a terrible cautionary example for anybody thinking that self-inflicted death is easily arranged…

The terrible price of longevity

Friday, 25 June 2010

Here’s an incredibly powerful and superbly written account from the New York Times about the consequences of life-extending interventions by medics.

It begins:

One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked.

It’s a gruelling read, and worth every word. You can find it here.

The sun that bids us rest is waking

Monday, 3 May 2010

It’s going to be interesting to track the development of, both, the right to die and its concomitant, the responsibility to die. Old age doesn’t just become physically unendurable, it gets to be economically unaffordable, too.

The darkness is increasingly going to fall at our behest. Choosing the moment will be straightforward enough. Humans live in the future. Our zest for now resides in our expectation of what lies in store for us next. We’ll know when we want to go:  no next, no point. Pass the dose, doctor.

Here’s a new poem by Fleur Adcock in this week’s Spectator:

Charon

Where is Dr Shipman when we need him
to ferry us across the fatal stream
and land us gently in Elysium?

Shipman, boatman, ferryman – whatever
the craft he plies to help us cross the river –
we seem to have been waiting here forever.

How did we get the timetable so wrong?
Things are becoming vague, and we’re not strong.
Life was OK, but it went on far too long.

When we’ve forgotten how to keep afloat,
Scoop us up, Doctor, in your kindly boat,
And carry us across the final moat.

Cash for corpses

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

You can tell how developed a society is by the price it puts on life. Could, rather. In the most developed societies there’s a re-evaluation going on. The Office of National Statistics calculates that death is now preceded by the unendurable prospect of an average 10 years’ chronic illness or dementia. It scares the hell out of us. No one wants to go there.

So there’s a national conversation about assisted suicide and self-deliverance. We read about Debbie Purdy and lovely Omar and we say, “If that was me… Yes, of course she should be allowed to. It’s what I want for me, too.”

What price life, now?

What price keeping all our old people alive, too? Can we afford it? Can we not incentivise them in some way to sign up to an accelerated end-of-life care plan? Yes, we’ve got ADRTs, a thin end of the wedge, but something faster? Because if we don’t, there’s going to be a heck of a doubly-incontinent lot of them when the baby boomers start their final, slow descent. And I don’t know who’s going to look after them. And I don’t know where the money’s going to come from. No one does.

So we’ve identified a brand new human right: the right to die. There’s been remarkably little fanfare about that.

But with rights come responsibilities. Have not the old a duty to vacate the stage, leave the building?

We’re getting our heads around it, this de-sanctification of human life. We’ll get our heads around the eu-word. We’ll have to. We have our abortions, after all.

So it’s interesting to see the Nuffield Council on Bioethics talking today about ways to incentivise organ donation. In the words of Management in Practice:

Under the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ plans, organ donors would be put on a transplant priority list and their families would be helped with funeral expenses.

The priority list proposal would see donors at the front of the queue for kidney, heart and other organ transplants, while contributions would be made to the funeral expenses of dead donors’ relatives.

Financial incentives, “presumed consent” systems, personal “thank you” letters and certificates and souvenirs such as T-shirts and mugs could also be considered. The financial incentives may range from payments to the regulated selling of organs, eggs or sperm and a fully-fledged free market or just modest expenses.

Today’s Guardian quotes Dame Marilyn Strathern, professor of social anthropology at Cambridge University, who is leading the consultation working party: “We could try to increase the number of donors by providing stronger incentives, such as cash, paying funeral costs or priority for an organ in the future, but would this be ethical?”

Ethical? Cash for corpses? Leave it out, Dame Marilyn. You are the future.

Still, small voice of calm

Monday, 25 January 2010

The novelist Martin Amis has called for euthanasia booths on street corners, where elderly people can end their lives with “a martini and a medal”.

The author of Time’s Arrow and London Fields even predicts a Britain torn by internal strife in the 2020s if the demographic timebomb of the ageing population is not tackled head-on.

“How is society going to support this silver tsunami?” he asks in an interview in The Sunday Times Magazine today.

“There’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops. I can imagine a sort of civil war between the old and the young in 10 or 15 years’ time.”

Read the Sunday Times account here. And the Independent account here.

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