Today, I was shocked to learn that over eight hundred people in the UK have added their names to a waiting list – to die.
They are queueing to attend special clinics in Switzerland, where the law permits assisted suicides and where they will be helped to end their lives with dignity.
Of course, most of these people are suffering from terminal illnesses and they do not want to remain in the UK where the present law forbids assisting in the ending of a life. They do not want to cause undue suffering on themselves or their loved ones, by waiting for the inevitable to run its course; they want to end their lives while they still have some control.
The House of Lords is presently debating whether UK law should be changed to allow assisted suicides to be made legal here. The reality, is that for years, many doctors have been assisting in speeding up the ending process. It is not done officially but is achieved through prescribing heavier than needed doses of drugs to those with little hope of living a quality life and who deserve some compassion and humanity.
Predictably, many of those of a religious nature are outraged at the possibility of assisted suicides becoming legal. They frequently argue their point, by mentioning the ‘word of God’ and by saying no-one has the right to decide their own end – except, of course, the Good Lord himself.
I do not know whether there really is a God or not. For me it is purely an academic argument.
I do know, there is a suffering that many people do not deserve to experience and if they can find a peaceful way to end their pain, they should surely be given the ultimate decision over their own destiny.
The act of suicide is not, as many would argue, a cowardly one.
To decide to cross the point of no return takes incredible courage and determination. It is not an attention seeking exercise but a final act of desperation and we should, surely, try to respect the views and the wishes of those who feel they no longer have a choice.