Assisted dying: the shit sci-fi angle

Dignitas were recruiting...

Multimillionaire author Sir Terry Pratchett must have the same doctor as Ernest Saunders, in that they both  claim to be suffering from an unusual form of dementia. In Mr Saunders’ case this famously allowed him to get off lightly after the Guinness trial. With the bafflingly knighted Sir Terry, it leads to him making frequent, detailed self-pitying announcements about the iniquities of British law, where as yet, “assisted dying” remains illegal.

Presumably Terry’s interest emanates from his concerns about his prognosis. The Knife suspects that Sir Terry has also been seeing the same doctor as our old friend al Megrahi, who is still hanging in there. In fact Tel even managed to do a Dimbleby Lecture while suffering from dementia. Funny that.

There are two aspects to all this that rile The Knife. One is what Christina Odone in the Telegraph ably points out today:

…beyond the manipulation of the public and the media, something tragic is afoot. These two powerful and articulate men are trying their best to make it legal to snuff out the lives of the vulnerable and poor. Suicide is already legal; so anyone who truly wants to take their own lives because the future as an Alzheimer’s sufferer is too bleak, can do so. But legalise assisted suicide and the wily and determined can decide to “assist” a vulnerable (and inconvenient) relative or partner take their life.

It’s scary, really. It may take just two men of substance to push through changes that condemn whole swathes of the less privileged to death.

The other “powerful and articulate man” is the egregious Charlie Falconer, a man whose ascent up the greasy pole was based solely on his choice of flatmate.  Presumably, given his physique, Charlie is concerned about a slow lingering death brought on by troughing. The infallible New Labour provocation test, regardless of the moral issues, means that whatever Charlie is for, I’m against.

My second concern is a little more professional. Whenever this comes up, it’s always assumed that “doctors” will do the deed. Thankfully, this is one role that the British Medical Association wisely opposes, and it’s not often that we agree.

It is ridiculous though. Nurses, paramedics, lab assistants are all easily trained in putting up intravenous infusions. Anyone can learn it, so why the hell should doctors get involved? Our primary task is to save life and ease suffering, not kill people.

It would be far more sensible if Terry and Charlie started lobbying the army – they know how to shoot people – or abbatoir workers. What could be quicker than a bolt through the forehead? Alternatively as with capital punishment, there would undoubtedly be a queue round the block for the post of state executioner, with the exciting option of a reality TV element in due course, and Charlie, who has form on this, could advise on the uniform.

Dressed to kill. Charlie is on the left.


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