Terry Pratchett’s documentary, Choosing to Die, that was shown on BBC Two last night has, for me, raised more questions than answers.
I’d first like to say that the BBC are to congratulated on showing this programme. There are many diverse and often heated opinions on this subject, as there should be, but I believe that this documentary has helped to open up a debate that needs to be confronted in this country.
The programme has been described as “pro-suicide propaganda.” Not for me.
Before watching the documentary I was in favour of assisted suicide – in favour of people going to Switzerland to exercise their right to die and in favour of it becoming legal in the UK. I supported Margo MacDonald’s attempt to make it law in Scotland.
Having watched a man go to his death in Switzerland I am now re-considering that full-throated support.
It struck me that it was a cold way of dying. Booking an appointment, getting a flight, taking a car journey, engaging in small talk, having a cup of tea, saying quick goodbyes, and then dying.
It is mechanical, and done away from the comfort of home.
So this would be solved by legalising it in the UK right?
Well, it would certainly be more comfortable (I use that word carefully) for those who have made the ultimate choice. But there are concerns, some more legitimate than others, that legalising assisted suicide could lead to the abuse of the old and vulnerable.
There is not stacks of evidence from the countries were assisted suicide is already legal to suggest this would be the case. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Switzerland all allow it in one form or another, as well as the Oregon and Washington state in the US.
Ultimately, and I think last night’s documentary showed this, it is more difficult for the family and friends left behind than it is for the person who has made the choice to die, just as it is more difficult for society/government to come to terms with a dramatic change in the law than the campaigners for such a change.
Before last night I would have said that I supported a change in the law and, what’s more, if faced with a terminal illness would like to have the option of being assisted to die at home if that is what I chose to do.
Now, after what I have seen, I am not so sure.