I’ve met people in my life that I’ve liked so much I would kill them…
I like to think that I have a good moral grounding in life. My friends and family would hopefully confirm that I am a generally caring person who wouldn’t harm a fly unless to defend it from another that was trying to beat it up. I’m not religious but I do believe in living by a fairly simple set of rules about being good to one another, treating people without discrimination, letting others live their lives as they see fit as I believe would be in line with most religious teachings. But, after all that is said and done, I would be prepared to kill another human being…and I don’t think it is something that would haunt me, not something I would feel guilty about and not something I think I would ever regret in later life.
This flies in the face of my belief that life is special. It is a privilege. It is, however you look at it, whether your view point is from a scientific, religious or philosophical stand point, a miracle. The odds against us ever being here, existing on this planet, evolving to the point where we are able to use our dextrous fingers and opposable thumbs to move the mouse onto this blog and reason your response to it with your incredibly complicated and advanced minds, were quite literally astronomical. So trust me, I do not take the beauty, importance, value, irreplaceability of any human life lightly…But…
We do not choose to come into this world…and once here we are bound by sets of rules and laws that govern many or all of our choices in life. We are controlled and governed by such things as ‘rules of the playground’, gaming rules, the laws of physics, religious laws, the law, thermodynamics, rules of engagement, sods law, the boxset of Law and Order etc. Even though governed, and often protected, by these rules and regulations we are still able to make some choices and to decide much of our own fate but the fact remains that no person in the history of humans has ever, ever had the option of whether or not they wanted to be born. And the one thing that we all have in common with one another is the fact that we will one day die. Regardless of status, fortune, how good a person you are/were, how smart you are, we will all of us one day die. As the Italians saying goes, “At the end of the game the King and the Pawn go back into the same box.” And yet as advanced a civilisation as we have become we still ‘condemn’ people to life. We choose to have a job and therefore must abide by the contract offered us when we are employed. We choose to drive our cars so must therefore observe the rules of the road. We understand the rules of physics so should therefore accept the fact that when we slip on banana skins, we will fall and that Sod’s law dictates that we will have been witnessed falling over and others will then laugh…because that’s what happens. But, again, no one chooses to be brought into this world in the first place. So how/why is it that we also feel it necessary to remove everyone’s choice to leave it?
The subject of euthanasia (or assisted dying) is a controversial one I know. Opinions on the matter are sorely divided and can often lead to passionate and heated debates and taking a stance on the subject can be a gamble. I however have always been prepared to stand up for what I believe in and, knowing that such issues will never be fully resolved without healthy debate, have never hidden my opinions on such matters. I agree with assisted dying. It’s not a stance I take lightly. It’s not an opinion I’ve gained by the toss of a coin. It’s an opinion based on compassion, experience and the willingness to allow someone the dignity to leave this world in the way and time that they see fit.
For anyone who has lost a loved one, colleague or friend through suicide, please be aware that this is not what I’m discussing. Suicide is a very tragic and heart wrenching event often forced upon an individual through stress, financial woes, depression, lack of acceptance and all manner of things that life throws at them. For anyone reading this blog thinking I’m aiming this at individuals who have found themselves in such a dark place in the world that they feel they have no option other than to take their own life then please accept that I see this being a very, very different thing all together and anyone who has had to experience such a loss has my deepest and sincerest sympathies.
My father died just a few years ago of Dementia. I watched helplessly as a towering, smart, witty, good man had the one thing that set him aside from the animals ripped away from him. His powers of reasoning, his intellect, his memory, his common sense, everything, in a nutshell his human brain which was slowly chipped away from him until he was no more. And eventually his body simply gave up and was put away with the other pawns and the chessboard they had stood upon. It was unpleasant to watch but must have been hell for him to endure at times. I don’t think it is something that he would have wanted to have lived through. It’s not something that I would want to live through myself either but I accept that I may have to…and I think that had he had a choice he’d have perhaps asked that when he was mentally unable to function anymore that he should be allowed to just call it a day.
My dad was a very pragmatic man. I asked him one day if there was anything he would like us to consider for his funeral he said “No, not really. I’d be happy to just lay down on a hill side one day and let the animals nibble away at me.” And he meant it. At first it might sound a little unhinged. It might even sound a little bit crazy but my dad was just incredibly practical about the whole thing. He understood our place in the world. He understood the circle/cycle of life, the laws of thermodynamics, the need for other creatures and people to live on after we’re gone. He understood that we must give way to a new generation in order that humans can progress, evolve, improve, to continue. His logic often cut to the chase and often allowed him to circumvent issues that many others would tiptoe around. I admired that logic and have hopefully inherited some of it myself. If it had been legal I’d have granted him his wish but, as it was, we instead planted him in a natural coffin in a hole in a woodland. (It was all very nice and I recommend it wholeheartedly.)
It was this logic of his that I think would have seen the sense in calling it a day. It was this sense of practicality that would have told him that there was a time to pull the proverbial plug and, you know, I think I would have been more than willing to do it. Not happy…but willing. Admittedly I’d never act outside the law on such a matter and we never did have such a discussion while he was still lucid so it would not have been fair to have ever acted on such an assumption anyway without his involvement in the first place. But I don’t think I’d have had any hesitation in doing it myself. Were such a way put in place that a person could be humanely and, as painlessly as possible, allowed to end their own life then, if it were someone I cared about, I’d be more than willing to help them make that happen. That may make me sound like a monster to some. It may make me sound like an unfeeling bastard, a cold hearted…whatever, but trust me…I’m not.
Many of the public arguments against this are based on religious beliefs. Well, I respect people’s beliefs. I respect that people need/want/believe in something greater. However, I do not. Moreover, nor did my dad. He accepted, as I do, that the miracle is in the fact that we were literally, and without exaggeration, made from stardust. That in itself is incredible. But to be told by a person who states that they speak on behalf of God, a God that I don’t believe in, a God that I’ve never seen proof of, a God that I have never heard speak to me, well…I just don’t buy that I’m afraid. I can’t recognise that as a rational reasoned argument to justify a person’s continued agony. Because, after all, this is what we’re talking about here.
I’m not talking about allowing someone to call it a day just because they’ve stubbed their toe and it’s “really-really sore!” I’m not talking about someone who has just had enough and wants to call it a day. I’m not talking about the person who fell on the previously mentioned banana skin and was subsequently laughed out of town. I’m talking about people who wake up in abject agony, who survive their day going from one type of pain to another hoping to have some small moment of respite in the form of some mind-numbing drug that will leave them stupored and unable to function anyway. I’m talking about people who have suffered for years as their bodies slowly crumbles away around them and for whom any form of dignity is stripped from them on a daily basis. I’m talking about people whose minds have been torn from them and have left them no longer resembling the people they once were. Surely providing the ability for another person to decide their own time of death is not inhuman but humane. Surely if we can end another’s suffering we have, not only the right, but the moral duty to make this happen, if it is something they want to happen. Have we advanced so little as a species that we are still prepared to put down a lame animal yet will not allow a person who can reason, a person who is able to make that choice to have that same right? The dog that we just put down because they were in pain didn’t ask for it to happen. The cat that was just put down because the cancer it had was beginning to eat it up from the inside out had no choice in the matter. We love our pets and, as hard as it may be, we know that the right thing to do is to sometimes end their suffering…yet we still cannot as a society stomach the thought of allowing our loved ones, our human loved ones, the same right to die.
I know that this is something that needs much more discussion and debate. I know that this is something that would need to be suitably regulated and carefully monitored to ensure such a system was not abused or that it targeted people who were not truly ready. But I also know that many people, like Sir Terry Pratchett, a smart, articulate, successful man believed in and fought passionately for this right. I know that my dad believed in it and I know that I too believe that we should take our head out of our arses and look at what really matters. We need to change our mindsets and to examine not the issue of the act itself but instead the issue of why we are so reluctant to consider it. Perhaps it is borne from fear of regret. Perhaps it is based on the same mindset with which we approach funerals, which are often designed for the living and not, as they should be, for those who have ‘dearly departed’. Perhaps it is yet another argument that governments perpetuate to take our eyes off of the bigger subjects…who knows. But I do know this, if anyone reading this strongly disagrees with what I’ve written here, if someone sees this and thinks of me as an evil, uncaring, unfeeling monster, then I hope for your sake that you are never faced with such a position. I hope that none of your loved ones are ever faced with living in constant agony, that you have no friend whose mind is beginning to turn to mush, no colleague whose body is slowly and inexorably beginning to imprison their minds. But if this does ever happen, just flick this blog open again and see how your mindset may have changed. Don’t be fooled, my reasons are not just based on my experience. They are not based on passion alone. It is a reasoned stance formed from my experiences in this incredible world of ours and one that, as with all mindsets, I am willing to have challenged.
If you have been affected by this personally or have any questions, opinions or views, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me at
The world federation of right to die societies:
Dignity in dying:
Care: Arguments for and against assisted euthanasia
The spectator: Against assisted dying:
Sir Terry Pratchett: