Monday, 10 November 2008

Dying of hopelessness: A case against assisted suicide

I am going to take the contrary view. I think that the good people of Washington were right to follow the example of Oregon. And whoever Leonard Stern might be, I somehow doubt that he is as caring as he would like to present himself.
The researchers discovered that in 2007, not one "of the people who died by lethal ingestion in Oregon had been evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist."
I have been treated for depression for some years now. I have never "been evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist" either. I suspect that is true of most of the people who are prescribed anti-depressants. They are evaluated by the use of a simple questionnaire, which can be administered by all kinds of people including counsellors. Many people live in very depressing circumstances - and the way out of those circumstances may or may not be clear cut. But by picking up on this one study, and indulging a bit of sleight of hand, the realities can get nicely sidelined.

He also picks a "hard case" - and as the saying goes "hard cases make bad law". A young athlete could not face life after a catastrophic injury. And his parents took him to Switzerland where he could die comfortably and legally. And of course we would all like to think we can be Christopher Reeve were such circumstances to afflict us. But he was an exceptional case too.

Euthanasia is something we have no trouble with when it comes to our pets. And indeed it may well be true that many people have a closer relationship to their constant companion than many of their family members. And it was not so very long ago that people with terminal illnesses were given a merciful overdose of pain killer by a sympathetic doctor. Of course, some more recent cases such as Dr Harold Shipman have made that informal practice much too risky for the average GP.

But a couple of years ago I had to watch my dog die by lethal injection - and also my brother died from an inoperable brain tumour. I know that I made the right decision in my dog's case. I also know that my brother did not have that choice. And that is a right I think we all should have. And people like Leonard Stern should not be allowed to keep that choice from us.

But, at the same time, I support the Samaritans and people like this

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