Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The right to die.

I come out every now and again with some opposing notions. I realise that, but hey, no person is made up of black and white views.
I'm against legalising drugs, on the fence about abortion (when I was younger I was totally pro-choice, but as I got older my views have changed slightly, I still consider myself pro-choice, however I despair at the numbers and casual attitude to it)
But I am down right enthusiastic about the right to die.
I figure if an adult, mentally sound, but terminally ill person decides they don't want to live anymore then their decision should be respected.They should be allowed to end their life with as much dignity as possible.
My mother -on the other hand- thinks this is quite possibly the stupidest line of thought I have ever engaged in and thus far this morning we have rowed about it twice. (she's here, we're going into town to look for curtains)
It's not something I usually give a lot of thought to and doubtless we are going to bandy it about furiously this morning as we scope fabric, but I'd like to hear what you think.
From today's UK independent.

"A 30-year-old woman who is terminally ill has launched a campaign to overturn Britain's euthanasia laws by compelling her doctors to increase her dose of morphine and let her die.

Kelly Taylor lives in constant pain with a congenital heart defect and a spinal disorder. She says she has struggled with her condition all her life and wants release. She has been told she has a year to live but doctors have been unable to control her pain.

"Enough is enough," she said yesterday. "I don't want to suffer any more. I'm not depressed - I've never been depressed. I am a happy person. But my illness is now at the point where I don't want to deal with it any more."

Her case is believed to be unique in launching a double-pronged challenge to the law that forbids doctors from helping patients to end their lives. She wants the court to rule that doctors may sedate her and then withdraw tube feeding so that she dies.

The only treatment for Mrs Taylor's Eisenmenger's syndrome, which leaves her short of breath, is a heart and lung transplant, but she has become too frail for the operation. Her spinal condition, Klippel-Feil syndrome, restricts her mobility.

Last December, Mrs Taylor, who is looked after at home in Bristol by her husband, Richard, asked her doctors to increase her dose of morphine sharply. She had been receiving monthly prescriptions of the drug, to induce a deep, coma-like state of sedation, so that she no longer felt pain. She also made a living will asking doctors not to feed or hydrate her artificially.

Her doctors - a cardiologist, palliative care consultant and GP from Bristol Royal Infirmary and St Peter's Hospice - refused her request, saying that it amounted to euthanasia.

Mrs Taylor said: "My consultant has told me that he does not expect me to live for another year. In that time I will deteriorate and that deterioration will become quite undignified. I want to avoid that."

Last July, she attempted to starve herself to death but abandoned her effort after 19 days. She also considered going to the Swiss assisted suicide clinic, Dignitas, which has helped more than 60 British patients die. But she disliked the idea of relatives having to face police investigations.

"I don't want to die in a foreign country, I want to die at home. While I have respect for people who go over there, it shouldn't be necessary. We should have a law over here," she said.

Her lawyers, Leigh Day and Co, say her doctors have a duty to provide her with adequate pain control even where it shortens her life. The case is expected to focus on whether increasing the morphine dose can be justified in this way or whether it amounts to an assisted death.

A consultant in palliative care said "terminal sedation" was carried out but only when death was imminent - within a week or two. "This girl is up and about. She may have a terminal diagnosis in the sense that she is not expected to recover but she is not dying. I would find it very difficult to say this was about symptom control."

A judge yesterday ordered a full hearing into the case next month."

This woman is going to die, she is in constant pain, she has lived with this pain for a number of years. Doesn't she have the right to say stop. Does she have the right to demand an end her suffering?
We see it with cancer patients all the time. Anyone who has ever lost a relative to cancer knows that in the final days it is the morphine that finally takes them. This woman does not want to worsen. She wants to die now, while she still has some final quality of life.
So the question is, does she have the right to insist on her own death through medical means in her own country?

Labels: ,


Anonymous pat said...

I am surprised your mother - clearly an older person is so against this. I hope I would have tha courage to deal with whatever was dealt but I couldn't bear to dwindle into Alzheimers which happened to my loved brother. I just don't know the answer.

10:03 a.m.  
Blogger Gerry said...

I definitely think they have the right to die and should get as much assistance from doctors as possible. If I left a dog in that much pain I'd be up in court for cruelty to animals, but with humans it seems to be ok.

10:45 a.m.  
Anonymous MacDara In The Leb said...

Why Stop at terminally Ill people, I mean if they are adults and Sane and just dont want to live their lives anymore surely they should be able to get Doctors to kill them as well.

And you see that’s the thing, Committing Suicide is against the law but you can do it yourself. These right to Die people want trained medical personnel whose job it is to keep you alive and as comfortable as possible to assist in Suicide.

And how can anyone who wants to die be considered sane anyway when it is against our human instinct of survival

11:16 a.m.  
Blogger Twenty Major said...

And how can anyone who wants to die be considered sane anyway when it is against our human instinct of survival

If you were crippled and in constant pain and you had a limited amount of time left which was only going to be filled with more pain and suffering then it seems quite sane to want that to end.

11:50 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Pat, my mother is an insufferable hypochondraic. She would draw any pain and illness out to its very last whimper. Her biggest fear is 'The Big C' but if she could catch it and be assured it wasn't terminal she would be the happiest woman on the face of the planet.
I'm sorry about your brother, my grandmother had it too and it was horrible to see her turn into a stranger before our eyes and very upsetting for her too.
Gerry, that's a good point, it is the quality of life we watch for in an animal, and we do deem it cruel to keep said animal around if we feel it is suffering. We 'put it out of its misery' don't we?
Mac hawtness, is it illegal to commit suicide? How can a successful suicide be prosecuted? And do unsuccessful attmepts at it make a person a suspect in a crime?
Major, quite.

1:12 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

Now Fmc, we're not goin' changing our ethos just because your Mater winds you up somethin' awful. Why can't you just learn to get along?

1:38 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Oh Conan, my mother has used 'you'll be the death of me' for so many years no I've completely given up on there being any truth to it.

1:42 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

Sure they all say that, it's one of the first things they learn in Irish Mammy school. They say it so that if we legislate for euthanasia they can then say, "See, I told you you'd be the death of me!"

1:51 p.m.  
Blogger Kav said...

I'm for the idea in principle - I think if someone is suffering unbearably that it should be their right to die in peace. However, to make this the law, some sort of quantification would need to be applied to measure the level of pain a person is suffering before being considered to be a candidate for euthanasia. How can pain be quantified, how could the process be controlled effectively? People have different pain thresholds, and there's always fakers and depressed people who just want to die. It'll be interesting to see how this one pans out.

1:53 p.m.  
Anonymous MacDara In The Leb said...

Well there you go Macdara learns someting new.

The Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993 sets out the law in relation to suicide. Suicide itself or an attempt to commit suicide is not a crime. However, it is a criminal offence to help another person to take measures to end their life.


Pain killing drugs which may also shorten life may be administered if the intention is to deal with pain and not to end life.

Twenty I see your point that a sane person may choose death over endless suffering but would the same not apply to some just fed up of life maybe they are suffering emotional pain serverly depressed. The problem will always be where to draw the line. Is cancer enough or should A stroke be accpetable, Its a terrible position to have to be in but I'm not sure I want to see death become the acceptable choice of a doctor or patient.

By the way Gerry we put horses down after breaking legs and often animals are put down because the cost of operations is too high not only to ease the pain its ease the pain at an acceptable price.

2:03 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Horses are heavy animals on four slender legs, they are also an animal that is used to constant motion. It is extremely hard to treat a fracture or break in a horse and incredibly expensive, not to mention in a lot of cases the animal is miserable and lame despite the best efforts. You should see a horse in a sling after a week or two, drugged up to the eyeballs to keep him sedate. Not nice. Most time the kinder option is to shoot them.

2:15 p.m.  
Blogger Mairéad said...

I'm for it as a concept, but......there has to be a tight watch / control on it. For example, it must be the patient who requests it. I'd hate to see people bunged off by greedy relatives, like they were bunged off to mental institutions in Ireland in the past. I'm not sure that I could trust the health service either once it becomes common practice.
What about this for a compromise: don't legalise euthanasia, but do allow the increase of morphine to remove all pain (if requested by the patient), if that kills you, then ok.
As for your mother, I understand her point of view entirely - maybe she's worried about her future as she gets older? A daughter arguing the merits of euthanasia would hardly settle her stomach....

2:56 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Nothing settles that one's stomach, hiatus hernia and reflux acids don't you know.

3:35 p.m.  
Anonymous Eva said...

I'm definitely for the right to die. I think it would be the most human thing to do for terminally ill people who suffer unbearable pain, but I understand the problems surrounding the issue.

4:08 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Supposing there were guidelines drawn up, such as, the patient was terminal, in their full senses and had spoken about it and was in accordance with more than one specialist/doctor. What could stop them? Is is a moral issue or a pragmatic one?
When patients that are declared brain dead and unplugged from a lfe support machine is that not preforming what this woman is asking for?

4:30 p.m.  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I think these things should be decided case by case with the patient,a whole team of doctors, loved ones, psychiatrists and nurses (who are often the ones who're in the best position to observe constantly without too much emotional attachment). This would be expensive and time consuming but what price human life and all that?

The laws should be in place to facilitate it if euthanasia is what's requested. Adequate over-rides should be allowed in the system to allow for miracle cures, changes of faith etc.

My only worry with a blanket law allowing it is old people. We have a top-heavy population in Lewis and I don't mean boobs. Many old people are cared for at home and feel like burdens on their families and I've heard old cailleachs say they wish they could just go quietly and give all their relatives a rest. Even people in nursing homes say this regularly. It even seems to have become the "decent thing" to say - only an arsehole would want to be a burden, right?

A lot of my childhood was spent visiting sick old relatives and friends and having to be quiet, which means there's nothing else to do but listen. That's what i heard many times over from some very religious people for whom talking about suicide must have cost them plenty.

Noone should feel they have to die to give someone else a break. Especially if its just because they have an arsehole family with people sighing and rolling their eyes every time they have to take the old biddy to the bathroom.

5:00 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I agree there would have to be safeguards in place, but despite my personal squeamishness I feel it should be open to discussion.
There was a case a few years ago in the UK where a lady-I think she had Motor Neuron disease- and her husband battled the courts to allow her to die with grace, she was particularly terrifed of choking to death as her body shut down.
She and her husband clearly loved wach other and were thoughtful intelligent adults, so it was pitiful to see them thwarted in every way with little consideration to either of their feelings.

5:11 p.m.  
Blogger John Mc said...

FMC I absolutely agree with you on this. I was commenting but the length got out of hand, and I realised I should really post it on my own blog. www.johnmcdermott.net/blog.html

6:44 p.m.  
Blogger Andraste said...

Yep, I'm definitely with you, Cat. We should all have a choice about dying with dignity, rather than spend our last few weeks, months, whatever, in excruciating pain. Most arguments against it always seem to come down to a religious opinion - and when religion comes in the door, reason goes right out the window. How is putting a pet down when it's suffering any different from helping a human out of his misery? We think we're doing our pets a favor when we euthanize them at the end of their lives, so we don't find them having shat themselves and expired under the radiator - how is that different from someone deteriorating to the point where they have no dignity left?

7:06 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Exacty Andraste. My father had cancer and it was horrible to watch crumble, eventually they sent him home to die and it was with a morphine drip so that he could top up his pain meds as much as he wanted, trust me, it was not long after that when my father left this earth. Imagine if they had denied him this on the grounds of some religious ethos...the pain and suffering would have been horrific.
By the by when a day come that Puddy looks miserable, as much as I love her I'm going to do what's right for her and off to the vets we go.

9:26 p.m.  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I agree with you and all - it should be legal to help end suffering but I just hate the idea of old helpless people feeling it is somehow their duty to die and leave their families to get on with their lives.

It's like that Antarctic expedition when the man who knew he was holding the others back said, "I'm going for a walk, I may be some time" and he went out in the snow and died. That's all very noble under the extreme circumstances and everything but it shouldn't extend to become a norm.

12:44 a.m.  
Blogger Fat Sparrow said...

People should be allowed to off themselves, terminally ill or not. Just get it over with and quit droning on about it, and please stop making a meal out of it, is what I say.

Switzerland right now is seriously considering changing their legislation to allow mentally ill people to commit doctor-assisted suicide. I don't have any problem with that, either. If people don't find their lives useful, umpteen billion people on the planet are willing to take their place. I can't see one less human making that much of a difference. When the party's over, turn out the lights. On the other hand, if what you actually want when you talk about suicide is attention, then learn how to tap dance.

Yeah, I know, I'm a heartless fucker, but I'm practical.

If I get to the point where I am old and disabled and have no joy in life, I'd like to think that there is a painless way out, as pain sucks. I can't imagine the kind of courage that it would take to walk out to an ice floe, and drift off, or stay behind willingly when your tribe leaves for the winter, as you know you'll be a burden. I'd be yowling like a baby, as I am no hero.

Your Captain Oates guy from Sam's quote, on the other hand, took the easy way out. He didn't have to stay behind and watch everyone else cark it. Twatty, or noble? Hard to tell. He definitely got the last word in.

I think that our society as a whole has over-glorified life because we are not in touch with our own life-cycles, our own mortality. Modern medicine has become a Frankensteinian institute in which living, simply being alive, is valued over everything else. They will keep you alive because they can. It's quantity over quality.

Christians constantly amaze me. Supposedly they have the most to look forward to after death, and yet so often they are the ones that fear death the most.

Many people in our society today have never seen a person die. They have never been with them while they die. They see death as something completely unnatural. Anne Rice is right; being with a person as they die is the closest most people will ever get to a supernatural experience. I've been there a few times, and it has been humbling, each time. It hasn't made me value life any more, or any less. It has made me see that death is a part of life, and like life, should be as dignified and pain-free as possible.

FMC, your mom does crack me up. I can just picture the little cogs spinning around in her mind as she pictures you plotting her death and desecrating the family silver.

3:20 a.m.  
Blogger Gerry said...

It seems people think it needs to be controlled and ok'd by doctors, shrinks and other experts. People should be allowed to die when they want, terminal illness or no. It's their lives. If you don't think that a person has a right to say when they die, then get the hell out of the army, go fully anti abortion, protest US troops landing at Shannon, protest the death penalty in the US, human rights in China and all of that. Or is it only ok to die if some one else allows it. It's ok to kill other people in war to get oil, abort because you couldn't be arsed having a kid but not ok to kill yourself painlessly and with some dignity? It's their own lives and we should legislate against when some one else wants to end it for them, and not when they want to do it themselves.

7:57 a.m.  
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