That is not truthfully the background to my views on euthanasia and assisted suicide but it at least establishes context.
In Netherlands, Belgium, Columbia and Luxembourg euthanasia for humans is legal, whereas assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, Montana and Washington D.C. I suggest where the Netherland first trod the world will follow. With the possible exception of Vatican City and countries allied through religion to the papacy, of course.
And that is the problem with this most personal and conscience-driven of issues: religion.
I am firmly, one might say devoutly, atheist. In my novel ‘Linda Versus God’ the titular character has as a mantra - ‘God has had 2,000 years to bring peace to the Earth and has singularly failed to do so’. The novel is light-hearted and atheism does not necessarily win the day. But the mantra has a ring of truth about it that I liked the moment it came into my head.
So why should the edict of God or His Earthly supporters down the years have the final say on my destiny? If I wish to end my life at the end of this piece, next week or on the final whistle after the match which sees England knocked out of yet another World Cup, why should the consciences of politicians, churchman, religious scholars of ancient history or the mythical figure of a deity no one has ever seen prevent me? If I do not own me, what do I own?
Euthanasia is personal choice. Assisted suicide involves two people of choice. If someone’s wife, child or parent is in insufferable pain twenty-four hours a day, where there is no hope of recovery only further torment, why is it wrong to want to ease their suffering? No one who loves their wife, husband, child or parent would wish them to suffer a life that has no dignity, no comfort, only prolonged pain. Because the despicable few would take advantage of such an easement in the law people are forced to stand by and watch their loved-ones live life in mimicry of what the devil is said to do to sinners in purgatory. It is not human. It must be torture for all.
Euthanasia and perhaps assisted suicides should be seen as the last kindness to loved ones. If the Hippocratic Oath prevents doctors assisting in euthanasia then it should be revised on humanitarian grounds.
On the subject of death I have another gripe. On my death I want an all-expense spared disposal of my body. As far as I am concerned a body bag, the back of a van and a hole in the ground is all that is needed to dispose of my remains. Burials that cost many thousands of pounds is plain ridiculous. Death has become an industry and people fall for the rhetoric of its advertisements in the same way as they fall for the psychological advertising they see in supermarkets. Very soon Funeral Firms will be advertising bury 1 bury another for free! Why can’t burials be quick, simple and cheap, with perhaps memorial services for the dead weeks or months later, as is the case for some politicians and celebrities?
Death is the final frontier of conscience. You may believe your life is held in God’s hands and if you do no one should argue against your wishes. But I do not believe my life is held in God’s hands; indeed I believe if God ever existed in Mankind’s existence he has gone away, perhaps disgusted with Mankind’s conduct. Perhaps as Linda Ellis suggests, he now lives up in Heaven, his holiday home, thinking up plans for a new Eden on Mars or some other planet in some other galaxy.