Wednesday, July 15, 2009

UK: Might You Die Because You are Unable to Say You Want to Live?

There is no doubt that Baroness Campbell of Surbiton made the difference in a very important debate in the UK House of Lords last week.

Speaking in opposition to an amendment proposed by Lord Falconer, which sought to decriminalize the actions of people who help others commit suicide, the good Baroness delivered a compelling speech that was the main reason the amendment was defeated.

Baroness Campbell, born with a degenerative muscular condition, understood the implications of the amendment, which was generated by the intense reporting over the last few years of many UK citizens, who, accompanied by others, had travelled to Switzerland for assisted suicide at the Dignitas clinic (here, here, here, here).

Ahead of the debate, Baroness Campbell penned a persuasive public letter laying out her position. ISDB, along with a number of other US and UK disability advocacy organizations, was a signatory to the letter.

Last Sunday, Baroness Campbell detailed her struggles and her ultimate conviction that her life was worth living.

She also noted that in one hospital emergency, where she was unable to speak for herself, she was lucky to have had her husband Roger there to speak for her, because it was clear that the doctors were going to let her die, and had already agreed on a “do not resuscitate” order, ostensibly because of her poor quality if life.

I was horrified to learn that it was only after Roger showed the doctors a photograph of Baroness Campbell getting an honorary doctorate in law from Bristol University that they were persuaded that she did, indeed, have a good “quality of life.”

That’s what we’ve come to: Having to prove to our doctors that our lives are worth living, and therefore worth saving.

Is there still anyone who thinks that, had Roger not been at his wife’s side, that she would be giving an interview in her sunny garden last Sunday?

Is there still anyone who doesn’t think that among the many thousands of people with medical and other disabilities that turn up alone in UK hospitals in similar circumstances, that many are allowed or encouraged to die even if they want to live?


Tara said...

Has anyone seen the latest from BBC(14 July, 2009): Conductor dies in suicide centre ( .

What is ironic is that the first article I saw yesterday about this mentioned that Sir Edward Thomas Downes was the first Briton who did not have a terminal illness. I wonder if it was just coincidence that this article only mentions that he was "almost blind and increasingly deaf."

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Well, as an classical music nut, I'm very aware of Sir Edward's stellar conducting career, as first got the news last Thurs. about his death. The reporting is a little off - there has been at least 1 other couple where one partner was healthy and the other in declining health that have chosen to end their lives at Dignitas. I blogged about it a while ago.

The macabre slant is how fawning the media is: "Choosing to die at their appointed time, holding hands across their separate deathbeds..."

Yes, evil is good, good is evil.

Thanks for stopping by. Join me in the fight.

Beth A. said...

It was bound to come to this...."Physician-Assisted Suicide for Healthy People"...need I say more?