The BBC News recently showed Noel Conway, who has motor neurone disease and is challenging the law on assisted suicide. His case is due to be heard at the Court of Appeal. He is fighting for the right to enable doctors to either switch off his ventilator or prescribe him a lethal dose of drugs when he feels his life has become unbearable. He wants to die with dignity and avoid being ‘entombed’ in his own failing body.
The 1961 Suicide Act states that anybody assisting a person to die would be liable for up to 14 years in prison. Mr Conway’s legal team says this violates his right to respect for his private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Before his illness, Mr Conway was a keen skier, climber and cyclist. Now he is confined to a wheelchair and depends on a ventilator to help him to breathe, as his muscles are wasting away and he has almost no movement below his neck.
In 2015 MPs voted against changing the law to allow assisted suicide.
All I can state here is from my own experience of caring for my mother in the last few months of her life. Dot, aged 92 and in extreme pain all the time from various co-morbidities, told anybody and everybody that she wanted to die. She was ready to go, but had to linger on until the bitter end. When she was in extremis, the doctor treating her phoned me at 3am one morning to ask my permission to attach her to a morphine syringe driver to ‘ease her suffering’.
I knew and he knew what that meant. The morphine would put an end to her pain, stop her agitation, and ease her into the next world. I agreed, as it was torture to watch her suffer. After the injection she could still hear me and squeeze my hand, but within hours she had died peacefully in her sleep.
Now, wasn’t that a better way to go than writhing in terrible pain? If a dog or a cat is at death’s door, then a vet is allowed to give them a lethal injection to end their misery. If the law is revoked and each case is reviewed independently by a judge, then I’m sure Mr Conway and others like him who are all of sound mind will be able to pass over with the dignity they all deserve.
If a person is in their right mind, has a short time to live and they choose to end their suffering, then what’s wrong with letting them have their wish to die?