The Assisted Dying bill, debated in the House of Lords on July 18th, passed a major hurdle and has been put forward for debate in Parliament. In essence, the Bill, if it became law, would enable a doctor to prescribe a medication for a patient knowing that it is intended to kill them. Proponents of the Bill claim it will lead to ‘dignity in dying.’ Having such a law would put an intolerable pressure on elderly people. It would be largely silent, but it would still be the language of ageism. Driving it would be many motives, money, convenience, all sorts of things. But the underlying premise would be, ‘He/she has had a good innings, and it’s time to let go.’ Older people hate the thought of being a burden, and would opt for what they thought was the best thing to do.
Writing in the Independent, Lord Tebbit, whose wife was left paralysed by the IRA bombing in Brighton in 1984 said, ‘This Bill would provide a route to great pressure on the elderly, the sick and the disabled to do the decent thing and cease to be a burden on others,” he said. “Those who care for such people are all too familiar with the moments of black despair that prompt those words, ‘I would be better dead, so that you could get on with your life. This Bill will be a breeding ground for vultures, individual and corporate. It creates too much financial incentive for the taking of life.’ Read what Lord Tebbit said here – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/assisted-dying-debate-speeches-on-right-to-die-move-a-full-house-oflords-that-is-left-divided-and-undecided-9615961.html.
Shouldn’t we be creating a culture of life, not death? I watched a video a few years ago made by a woman in her sixties who had been diagnosed with dementia. Speaking lucidly and purposefully, she said that she did not want to be a burden for her family and also wanted to avoid health care costs. The video was broadcast on Dutch TV. How much did depression affect her decision? Depression can be a major factor in dementia, but it can usually be treated. How would it have been if she’d felt that her family wanted to spend every last minute with her? That they didn’t see her as a burden, but as precious to them?
Dr Jennifer Bute was a General Practitioner when she was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of 63. She saw it as a ‘Glorious Opportunity’ to inform people about the disease, from a professional and personal point of view. She has set up a website packed with information, including videos. In May this year I shared a platform with her at a national conference and listened while she talked about how God sees each person, and how we have a purpose here on earth, right to the end of our lives. See her website here: http://www.gloriousopportunity.org/ Where Assisted Dying, or its equivalent, is legal, there is little palliative care. (Holland is an example.) But it needn’t be this way. In our care and nursing homes we are currently looking after frail, older people who are there because they can’t care for themselves. They are surrounded with love, respect, and spiritual support, right to the end. Our carers describe the satisfaction they feel from being able to look after them the way they do. See how it works for this carer at our home in Wantage, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1_K2D6oC08