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An email correspondent, with whom the writer shared support for assisted dying and Scottish independence, died today. Read her obituary in the Scotsman – avoid the grudging and mean-spirited text in the Telegraph.
The best tribute is to make sure her thoughts are kept alive. Here are a few sent by email in 2008:
In talking about the end of life, let’s start at the beginning … I don’t support euthanasia. I do support having the best-possible palliative care, whether at home, in a hospice, or any other place a terminally ill person wishes to be when life ends.
But I also support the right of terminally-ill people to end their lives should they become unbearable, and to be able to obtain assistance to do this legally. That’s why I attended the debate, initiated by the Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis, on assisted suicide. I intended to show support for his persistence and to listen and learn.
A few years ago, a UK newspaper published an opinion survey showing a very high percentage of its readers to be in favour of the principles enshrined in Jeremy’s motion. Only one correspondent has expressed opposition to my stance.
The effectiveness of palliative care varies from patient to patient, and unfortunately for some, offers minimal relief. It’s amongst this group that the wish to have a choice of assisted dying is of real interest.
I’m lucky, my Parkinson’s is mild, and in the thirteen or so years since it was diagnosed, I’ve worked normally and exercised regularly. But my luck might not hold up and my condition may degenerate more severely than the present prognosis. In that circumstance, I’d like to be able to count on obtaining assistance without asking anyone to commit a crime in helping me to die.
Having a legal right is not the same as being obliged to act on that right. It’s quite possible that knowing I can legally be assisted to die, if I choose to truncate any prolonged period of severe impairment, might be enough to make the situation bearable.
The people who’ve contacted me face up to what the BMA won’t … that for some terminally ill people a dignified, peaceful end to life cannot be brought about by drugs or even the most sensitive care.