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Assisted dying – a debate that doesn’t die

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In 19th century Britain, a person who committedsuicide would have a stake driven through their heart before beingunceremoniously buried at a road side. You’d think we’d have progressed since then, and we have.  Suicide is no longer the felo de se crime it used to be, but in the case of assisted dying ourlaws remain woefully archaic.

There exist people, fully competent, who place their life ona scale and find death outweighing life. For them, death is a good thing - something to look forward to and evenstrive for.  We’ve seen it time and timeagain in the news.  This is such an alienconcept for some that they seem to refuse to accept it, but denial does nothingto help address the issue.

The circumstances in which someone chooses to end their lifeare always desperately sad.  But they aremade sadder still by the challenges the legal system presents.  As a result there are deaths behind closeddoors, or individuals have no alternative but to refuse food and water.  Those who can travel to a Dignitas clinic inSwitzerland face fears their loved ones might be prosecuted.  And what does it say about Britain that weoutsource our death?  It has been ten years now since thefirst British person ended their life with Dignitas.

There are legitimate concerns about assisted dying, thatvulnerable people could be coerced and that it is a slippery slope to name afew.  I don’t think any of them representinsurmountable issues.  Other countrieshave successfully implemented assisted dying policies.

Pharmacists would likely be a crucial safeguard in anyassisted dying process.  As the suppliersof the elixirs of death* we’d have to be. No doubt the right to conscientious objection would exist.  We should seek to be a vocal voicein the assisted dying debate.

It’s easy to think about the issue in the abstract, as ifit’s an interesting ethical conundrum that affects other people.  But that person I mentioned who places theirlife on a scale, it could be you.  Youchose how you lived your life, don’t you think you should be free to choose howyou end it?

 

*Dignitas uses 15 grams of sodium pentobarbital, a shortacting barbiturate, in 100ml of water.  Dignitasstates “only very few pharmacies can supply it readily”.  Metoclopramide is given 30 minutes prior to ingestionto prevent vomiting.  The individualfalls asleep before respiratory arrest causes death.

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