Suicide (Latin suicidium, from sui caedere, “to kill oneself”) is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Now, whether such a death, assisted as it would be by another, can still be called suicide is one for our learned friends I think.
Most of the people who read my blog will be well versed in the debates around assisted dying / assisted suicide / euthanasia: I’m not intending to rehash them here.
I just want to point out that Friday 7th November is an important day in the UK. In the House of Lords there will be a debate, and proposed amendments, to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, part of many attempts to get some legislation on the statute books. Disabled people will be challenging this Bill, both inside and outside the House.
In many countries it is still a criminal offence to attempt suicide: there are also religious, cultural and moral objections, and the matter is a minefield. Campaigners in favour of assisted dying / suicide maintain that it facilitates choice and dignity, in that it allows people to choose how and when they will die, and allows them to avoid undue suffering if they are physically incapable of killing themselves without help.
Many others have laid out the arguments against assisted suicide, here and also relevant is the World War Two history of how easy it became to kill us disabled people, with the explicit involvement of the medical profession.
In today’s increasingly reactionary and right wing climate, when our government is cutting off means of support for disabled people, spearheading the portrayal of us as scroungers and skivers, and describing foodbanks as a lifestyle choice, how far away are we from being described as ‘useless eaters’, as in WWII Germany?
I have friends and colleagues, radical disabled activists, who have told me that should their lives become intolerable then they would want to be able to end them, and I respect their view. But I have had other friends and colleagues who, when ill, have been designated DNR, or who have later learned that family members have been consulted as to whether resuscitation should be attempted. These instances without the knowledge of the patient.
The point is, the system we have doesn’t work and isn’t followed. Why should we trust any new arrangements? And the thing is, if it is not to be a bloodbath, assisted suicide / dying requires regulation but no one knows how to make such regulation safe.
If you can, join the campaigners on Friday, or send messages of support if that’s not possible. Disabled people are trying to change the terms of the debate and could do with your support.