The right to die for those who are chronically sick…
Posted Apr 04 2011 5:19am
The Guardian has raised the question of the right to die/assisted suicide for those not actually terminally ill. As I fall into that category, I sent them an email with my response. This, very slightly modified due to hindsight, is what I said.
While not terminally ill in the accepted sense, I have severe ME/CFS, stage 4 COPD (I have never smoked – I had the precursors to COPD, asthma and bronchiectasis, since contracting measles and whooping cough more or less simultaneously at age 2, which trashed my lungs, as did most of a lifetime of other people’s smoke), widespread and extremely painful osteo arthritis, the results of being struck by lightning in 1983, plus a whole raft of other symptoms stemming from that event. I have recently been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, as a result of my COPD.
So, as I say, not what would normally be classified as terminal, but the chances of a long and happy old age (I’m 66), are effectively zero.
Unless I die suddenly, which is possible and preferable, the prospect is of a lingering death, becoming increasingly unable to look after myself, and becoming a burden to myself and to others. Not to mention that the level of pain, already intolerable some days, thanks to my GP’s almost obsessional reluctance to prescribe effective analgesia, will become insupportable. So I have prepared what I choose to call an exit strategy. Or a suicide kit, if you will.
I have squirrelled away a supply of potent drugs, and alcohol, Jack Daniel’s – this is not a time to cheap-out , sufficient to carry me off painlessly and swiftly, so that there can be no possibility of resuscitation.
Nor am I religious, so I have no worries on that score, and I have no family to be distressed by my actions, and friends will get some notice. I will, at some point, simply want out, and that, I believe, should be the right of every chronically sick person. And those who are not chronically sick cannot possibly comprehend the sheer physical effort it takes simply to progress from one day to the next. Society has no right to attempt to force us to endure conditions which are simply unendurable. It really is that simple
I would stress that I am not clinically depressed, nor do I suffer from any other mental illness – I simply reserve the right to remove myself from this life while I am still capable of doing so.
However, I would also stress that the time has not yet arrived and, around midday, I’m off to the pub (my assorted illnesses mean that whatever social life I still have – sod all, mostly – has to happen in the afternoons, as by evening I’m a basket case).