Friday, 17 August 2012
Kind Or Cruel?
Anyone with the slightest drop of compassion, must have felt sympathy with Tony Nicklinson and another 'locked-in syndrome' sufferer named only as Martin, when three High Court judges ruled that it was not the place of the courts to 'usurp the function of Parliament by effectively changing the law.
Tony Nicklinson wanted legal assurance that his doctor would not be prosecuted if he gave him a lethal dose of painkillers. Martin wanted permission for volunteers to be able to help him go to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland because his wife felt unable to help him, even though she respects his wishes.
Under recent guidelines from the Director of Public Prosecutions only family members, or close friends who are motivated by compassion, are unlikely to be prosecuted for assisting a suicide.
Mr Nicklinson describes his life as:
“My life following my stroke is undignified, distressing and intolerable. I wish to be able to exercise the freedom which everyone else would have - to decide how to end this constant tortuous situation.”
Anti-euthansia campaigners and doctors leaders welcomed yesterday's judgement. Prof. John Saunders, chair of the ethics committee of the Royal College of Physicians, said a change in the law would have had 'severe implications for the way society views disabled people'.
I disagree. The judgement shows the inability of our so-called tolerant and caring society to give us a legal framework that is more appropriate to the 21st century. It is nothing to do with how society views disabled people. That excuse should no longer be acceptable and each case should be judged on its own merits.
One comment I heard yesterday was that Mr Nicklinson had to choice to refuse treatment and that would eventually bring about his death. How cruel to suggest that he suffers even more in his desperation to leave his intolerable world.
Earlier this year the MSL Margo MacDonald launched a fresh attempt to give terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die. (Her previous End of Life Assistance Bill fell in a free vote).
Unfortunately Margo's Bill does not include cases such as Mr Nicklinson's or Martin's because they are not regarded as terminally ill.
I seldom agree with Poly Toybee, but I do today.