Tony Nicklinson, the man who lost his legal battle on assisted suicide, died yesterday from pneumonia having refused medication to treat it and, since the court ruling, food.
It was not, I assume, an easy death but I hope he is now at peace and that his family will be able to move on with their lives.
I cannot imagine what he has been though since his stroke but the subject of ‘right-to-die’ has however come up in dinner table discussions with the family over the years and, as someone who is vaguely more intelligent and manoeuvrable than the average fence post, I not sure which is the lesser of the evils. Not that choosing between
- Mentally alert but physically incapable (e.g. Nicklinson), or
- Mentally incapable but physically able (e.g. Alzheimer/dementia), or
- Neither mentally or physically alert (e.g. a persistent vegetative state)
is much of a choice mind.
My view on the matter, since my teens, has been that, with regards to the second and third options, I would not wish to exist* like so and if I were unfortunate enough to end up in such a situation then someone (family/close friends) should pull the plug/slip something into my food and drink in order to resolve the matter sooner rather than later.
However it is the first option which is the most difficult to decide upon a course of action for as the mind is still able even if the body is not. Being alert to everything going on around you whilst being utterly incapable of doing even the smallest of things without external help certainly doesn’t sound like much of a life but yet someone like Stephen Hawking has managed to fashion something for himself despite knowing that he would become progressively more incapacitated.
Ultimately however the choice should rest with the patient, not with their family, not with the legal profession and certainly not with the medical staff treating the patient. The latter groups though should be free to act upon the wishes of the patient without suffering any legal consequences as a result.