My husband once told one of our daughters that when our time came he intended to shoot me, and then himself. She thought it hysterical but I’m no altogether sure he was joking, and if there is still no other way by then, I am grateful to him.
I’ve always been firmly in the quality not quantity camp when it comes to my own mortality. If my death is not the result of some sudden random accident or swift medical emergency but instead a terrible, pain-ravaged or degenerative illness then I think eventually I will be one of many who will be looking for someone to help me die.
One of my strongest emotions during the time leading up to my father’s death was the shock that someone can be so ill and yet still be alive. Had he been a family pet, we would have ended his misery months before, when his quality of life disappeared.
I don’t agree that legalising assisted dying will result in a stampede. Sure we all know of people looking for an early get-out clause, and for this reason the process should be ethically and medically managed to protect the vulnerable but I believe that it is wrong to criminalise those that help their loved ones depart with dignity. It is surely a better option than suicide – which leaves friends and families with more questions than answers – and is such a lonely way to end a life. The British soap Eastenders touched on this topic recently when matriarch Peggy Mitchell took her own life rather than face an inevitable, painful and probably undignified death from cancer.
One of my favourite foreign language films is Mar Adentro, the true story of a virile young man who becomes a quadriplegic as the result of a foolish summer-time prank and fights the Spanish legal system winning the right for someone to help him take his own life. It is a beautiful story, beautifully told. Earlier this year the BBC screened Simon’s Choice following his deterioration due to an aggressive form of Motor Neurone Disease and his ultimate decision to end his life in a Swiss clinic. It was very moving and desperately sad but when the end came and Simon flew to Switzerland with a large group of family and friends it was also very beautiful.
It’s a complex debate, something I think Rebel In A Tutu will come back to and certainly one I’m sure that readers will have an opinion on…