A few years ago I had a wonderful dog called Patch; he was the most loveable creature with a delightful character, a Springer Spaniel which I had adopted from the ‘Springer Rescue Association’ as a 12 month old. His nature was of the sweetest, he loved children and indeed everyone who came in contact with him could not help but adore him. When he got to eleven he had what the vet described as a stroke, up until then he had struggled with arthritis which we treated on and off successfully, but he still loved his walks and his soft toy tugs of war with both us humans and our other dog Lady. We had nick named him the General because he would patrol the full edge of the garden with his nose to the ground seeking out new and unexplored smells. We would hear the familiar ‘put-put’ of his soft nose as he shuffled through the undergrowth. He was happy and loved life but then he had another stroke which left him blind and with his already impairing deafness he became reluctant to leave his bed and had to be guided to his food and drink. For a time we shepherded him into the garden for his toileting and then he would labour back. One day he woke up from a deep sleep and didn’t recognize where he was letting out a heart wrenching howl. I tried to sooth him but he was inconsolable. Now he really was suffering, whimpering and afraid so we stayed with him and tried not to leave him alone for any length of time. With a heavy heart I phoned the vet who came out and between us we decided that the quality of his life had gone and it was time to put him out of his misery. I was broken hearted but knew that his suffering must end. He was put to sleep encircled by my husband and I along with his companion Lady and Felix our cat. I held his head whilst the needle went in to his leg and he passed away very peacefully. Of course many of you will recognize this story and I too have carried out this process on several previous occasions with other beloved pets when their standard of life has completely diminished.
How many of us have said we wouldn’t let a dog suffer? Indeed if we did we would find ourselves hounded by the law? So bearing that in mind, how can we sit back and watch people like Tony Nicklinson, the man suffering from Locked in Syndrome, paralyzed and unable to speak, suffer so intolerably. A man, who begged to die, pleaded for it and yet no one had the guts to help him. Our government could have stepped in because in reality no judge can make this decision. Most of us would not let a dog or indeed any animal suffer to the extent this poor man did and yet we go through this rigmarole of musing on how some people might take it into their own hands and get carried away, like putting people down who don’t want to die.
For God’s sake hasn’t that always been the case? Yes of course there are potty people out there who have abused the law and taken the lives of those who haven’t wanted to die. Look at Harold Shipman the GP from Hyde. Before him many GP’s and compassionate doctors would end the suffering of individuals dying slow and agonizing deaths from some fatal conditions but then after the Shipman saga they were too afraid. As a nurse all those years ago I very rarely saw anyone die in intolerable agony, we did not hear of people begging to die before Harold Shipman kyboshed it all? It was happening but it was unspoken.
That poor man Tony Nicklinson, instead of us helping him die with dignity, with a comfortably death, died in anguish of a broken heart whilst his family watched helplessly unable to console him from his emotional and tortured struggle. Of course in the end us the public, under the auspices of so called ‘authorities’ refused to ease his suffering with euthanasia.
We as a nation have become a truly nanny state, we are dictated to by a bunch of posh school boys not just politicians but judges too who think they know what is best for us. What interests me is as a member of the ever increasing so called ‘aging population’ noting how medical science strives to keep us all living as long as possible and yet at the same time we hear how we are a drain on society. Then why bother to help us live longer? It’s a contradiction isn’t it? In truth governments are afraid to decide, they too are frightened of playing God! How can anyone play God when we humans have been given free will so this gives us the right to decide for ourselves doesn’t it? I know that I do not want to reach an age when I am unable to enjoy life to the best of my ability. I do not want to be a burden to those I love. Don’t get me wrong I am a bit scared of death, many of us are, but this needs to be discussed and maybe at the next election some of the electorates would include the subject in their manifesto. I would vote for it. I think in the main the problem is we are afraid to discuss death.
‘Let’s not discuss it, it’s maudlin’ is what people say. Death is inevitable; do not think that if we don’t discuss it then it will go away. In some parts of Europe, like Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands euthanasia is legal. Switzerland allows assisted suicide and is the only country that helps foreigners die in a clinic near Zurich. We should be ashamed of ourselves that we lack the courage to say we must end the suffering of those who make the choice to die because physically life has become intolerable. In truth it is the mere fact that we are afraid of death itself, it is the elephant in the room, the silent witness we all live with but try desperately to ignore.