I have always thought businessmen, sportsman and entertainers are overly rewarded for their contribution to society, while people in the medical profession are largely ignored and, though they seek no award or acknowledgement, carers of family members are far more deserving of knighthoods and honours than people whose achievements have rewarded them with enormous pay packets, more than one home and top of the range motor cars for all the family.
My other half’s father has a progressive tumour attached to the outside of the windpipe. Eventually his windpipe will collapse under the weight of the tumour and his life will come to an end. This journey to the precipice of life is proving neither quick nor untroubled. We have entered the period known as the beginning of the end. We have the ‘just in case’ box and the telephone numbers of those in the medical profession who will take over when loving care is no longer enough. He is now progressed to experiencing periods of confusion, hallucination and delusion. At first this had a humorous element to it, with him convinced on one occasion that there was a ‘hole the size of a shovel’ in the bedroom floor ‘full of snails’. One night he woke us up as he was wanting to turn off the electric as ‘he needed to stop the noise’. Now the confusion, and we suppose hallucinations, has led to ‘bed wetting’ and what is even worse peeing into an imaginary toilet or receptacle. He is also displaying signs of dementia.
This is no way for a man to end his life. Where is the humanity in allowing a human being to lose his dignity, and we must suppose self-respect, before he is allowed to die? And for the loving daughter it verges on cruelty to have to bear witness to the bit-by-bit destruction of a father she has loved all her life.
Those who believe it is ‘God’s’ decision when someone must die are forcing their beliefs on good human beings who want only the best for those they are caring for. Doctors who hide behind a Hippocratic Oath drawn up in the 4th or 5th century and that is wholly at odds with modern mores are, I believe, more neglectful of their duty to their patients than respecting them.
It is without doubt sinful to end a life that may be extended by medical intervention for years but it can only be considered a kindness to end misery and suffering in people with terminal illness.
A couple of years ago one of our much loved cats developed a brain tumour. When it was obvious nothing could be done for him we had a vet come to the house to end his suffering. She sat on our kitchen floor, cradled him on her legs, gently gave him a sedative before administering the fatal doss. It was peaceful and kind. I said at the time that when the time came that is how I would like to end my life. Not that it will be allowed to happen. If diagnosed with a terminal illness the law will demand I die with the same indignities and misery my other half’s father must endure. If I am similarly afflicted I have determined to forego medical treatment and allow the River Torridge to unburden me of my terminal condition. If God should object, allowing for the unlikeness of their being a deity, a heaven or if both are real, someone of my ilk (an atheist) entering such an esteemed resting place, I will debate the issue with Him and get Him to see the error of his ways. Though I suspect he will deny any involvement with Hippocratic Oaths or the religious suggesting it is ‘God’s Will’ for people to suffer and die painful deaths.
I only hope those who oppose euthanasia, come the last days of their life, suffer as my other half’s father must suffer. They will only understand the issue if they experience it from both sides.