Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die
I don’t normally comment on things like television programs, but for this I’m going to make an exception:
You can’t watch this unless you’re in the UK, but if you are I highly recommend it. If you can, I suggest you watch this before reading the rest of this post.
For the benefit of those who cannot watch the programme, it is about Sir Terry Pratchett investigating assisted dying and the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. He speaks to three people with degenerative diseases, two of whom who have chosen to go to the clinic to die, and one who considered it, but chose hospice care instead. During the programme, both of the men who chose to go to the clinic are seen in Zürich and meet Sir Pratchett before their final appointment. At the end, the programme shows one of these men at the clinic, and records the process of taking first the antiemetic, and then the barbiturate used to end the person’s life.
I am not in favour of suicide, assisted or otherwise. It is one of my core beliefs that life is worth fighting for, and that every moment counts. This is part of why I am prepared to spend so much time volunteering for the Organisation. To quote Sir Pratchett himself,
Lu-Tze restocked his travel bag with food from some of the houses, making sure to leave little copper tokens in their place.
‘It means we’re obliged to them,’ he said, filling Lobsang’s bag as well. ‘The next monk through here might have to give someone a minute or two.’
‘A minute or two isn’t much.’
‘For a dying woman to say goodbye to her children, it’s a lifetime,’ said Lu-Tze. ‘Is it not written, “Every second counts”? Let’s go.’
Thief of Time – Sir Terry Pratchett
(I’ll add now, I chose the quote only because I think it’s appropriate, not to make any comment on Sir Pratchett or his attitudes.)
The idea of an organised method of ending someone’s life just strikes me as wrong on a level I struggle to articulate. As discussed in the programme, I think it opens up a real risk of misuse, and that it could put vulnerable people in to a situation that they feel they have to end their life to remove the perceived inconvenience of caring for them.
What struck me most, however, was this:
21% of people receiving assisted dying in Dignitas do not have a terminal or progressive illness, but rather “weariness of life”.
Wikipedia – Dignitas (assisted dying organisation) – (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dignitas_(assisted_dying_organisation) )
I know for some people living is a daily struggle, against disease, disability or their environment. But I do not think we should have an organised manner for helping these people end their lives. Their has to be a better way of dealing with these situations.
I realise that I’m young, and fortunately I’ve never had to deal with a situation like this, so I can’t really imagine what it must be like to make the decision these people have. I am still passionately against suicide of any kind. However, having seen this programme, I do accept that, perhaps, it is a good thing that people can make the choice. I won’t support it. For the moment I think I never will. However, perhaps I won’t condemn it, quite as much.
- Sir Terry Pratchett defends his documentary about assisted suicide (telegraph.co.uk)
- Terry Pratchett Considers Assisted Suicide (science.slashdot.org)
- “Will Terry Pratchett Commit to Assisted Suicide” and related posts (alzheimersreadingroom.com)
- You: Terry Pratchett defends Choosing to Die documentary from critics (guardian.co.uk)