3 Apr, 09 | by Iain Brassington
In case you missed it, there’s a little under a week left to listen again to last night’s Radio 4 documentary on the Swiss assisted suicide movement: follow this link. For what it’s worth, I couldn’t help thinking that it was a little scare-mongering and tabloid. (So the mentally ill or non-terminal might be able to access AS; maybe even the not-ill-at-all. Woo-hoo. I don’t really see why that should have to be a problem. At the very least, it seems to display a shoddy blanketing of all those with mental illness as being, like, CRAZY ALL THE TIME. Not so. It seems perfectly reasonable to imagine, say, a schizophrenic or bipolar person deciding calmly that they no longer want to live this kind of life – and the mere fact that, strictly speaking, they have a mental illness is neither here nor there for most of the time. Granted, you might want to assist with suicide during a psychotic episode – but there’s more to it than that.)
The programme gets a reasonable write-up in The Times - with, unsurprisingly, extra comments from people like Care not Killing and Dignity in Dying. Sarah Wootton, of the latter organisation, is quoted as saying that
We believe the law should change in the UK to allow terminally ill, mentally competent, adults to have the choice of an assisted death but we are also very clear that should be within a strict framework of legal safeguards. I am very concerned about Dignitas. Mental competence is an essential precursor to an assisted death and we are absolutely immovable on that. We need to give a clear signal that to assist non-terminally ill adults to die is wrong.
Well, yes: legal safeguards are probably in order. But I find myself siding with Dignitas’ Ludwig Manelli here – why the terminal illness criterion? (Apologies for the blatant spamming, but this is a question I’ve raised elsewhere.) If a person wants to cash in their chips and they’re competent, and if there’s someone who’s willing to help, then why not let them?