From the Facebook page of my friend Anne, reproduced with her permission:
My mother was riddled with cancer, according to the Coroner, when she planned her successful suicide in 1972 at the age of 54. She waited for her first grandchild to be safely born, chose a day my brother and doctor wife were visiting so that my father wouldn’t find her, left notes around the house re unfinished business (including knitting for her grandson), went to a spare bedroom and took sleeping tablets writing a note as she fell asleep. It was the only way she could make sure the family didn’t watch her die a slow and painful death.
Under the new legislation, she could have met her grandson and we could have said our goodbyes. I have waited over forty years for this – please don’t make me wait any more.
Tomorrow the Scottish Parliament debates the Assisted Suicide Bill. This Bill would give terminally ill people the right to receive assistance in ending their lives within a very tightly regulated procedure as set out (from the My Life, My Death, My Choice” website) below:
A person who wants to begin the process must:
- Be over 16 years of age
- Be registered as a patient in Scotland
There are three stages being proposed before assisted suicide would be lawful.
- Stage 1: Person must sign a Preliminary Declaration. This can be made by someone who is in good health.
- Stage 2: At least 7 days later, the person must sign a “First Request for Assistance” which must be endorsed by two medical professionals.
- Stage 3: At least 14 days later, the person must sign a “Second Request for Assistance” which must also be endorsed by two medical professionals.
At both requests for assistance, the medical professionals must certify that the person is suffering from a terminal or life-shortening illness or a progressive condition and are capable of:
- Making a decision to make the request,
- Communicating the decision,
- Understanding the decision, and
- Retaining the memory of the decision
Only if all of these barriers are passed will a drug or other substance to end the person’s life be prescribed. A licensed facilitator will be assigned to provide comfort and assistance for the person when they take the drug or other substance prescribed to help them end their own life by suicide.
If the person chooses not to die by suicide within 14 days of the “Second Request for Assistance” then the drug will be taken away, and the person must make a further “Second Request for Assistance”.
This is a measure which commands widespread support amongst the population but it’s far from certain that MSPs will pass it.
I wrote to my MSPs this morning to ask them to support the measure. It’s something I consider to be a liberal measure because it gives people the choice to do what is right for them without harming others. This is what I said to them:
I am still haunted, almost 30 years on, by the suffering (a relative) went through in the final stages of her Cancer. It was very distressing for me as a 19 year old to have her ask repeatedly for us to end her life because she was in so much pain and distress. We did the best that we could to comfort her, but it made us feel awful to turn down her heartfelt pleas.
She wanted the choice to determine the manner of her rapidly approaching and inevitable death. To me, that’s completely reasonable. The state has to recognise that people are adults and should be given the dignity and respect they deserve in these situations.
The key principles of the bill before you tomorrow would have allowed her to do that in her own time. I don’t know whether she would ultimately have made the choice to end her own life but at least she would have had it as an option.
Of course it’s important that nobody is forced into feeling that they have to end their life, and the bill has sufficient safeguards to protect against that. The evidence from the rest of the world doesn’t suggest that pressure and exploitation are in evidence. Only a very small number of people even use the provisions of the legislation – but I think it’s important to recognise their right to do so.
I personally think that we should be doing more to talk about death, to make it less taboo. I was particularly moved by Dr Kate Granger’s video last week where she talked about the plans she had made for her death. We need to make sure that people have real options when it comes to approaching their death, whether that means services to support them at home, hospice care and the very best palliative care. I believe that the option of assisted suicide should be there for those terminally ill people who would choose to take it. Please don’t deny them that chance.
I appreciate that others may have a different viewpoint and it’s important that the debate be conducted in an atmosphere of respect and thoughtfulness.
My Life, My Death, My Choice have made it very easy for us to contact our MSPs and you don’t have to use their suggested content – it’s better if you don’t.
Just ask them to do this for Anne and the many others who have similarly touching stories to tell.