Friday 3 June 2011

It's The Economy, Stupid.

Voluntary Euthanasia is going to become legal in the UK within, please Goddess, my lifetime. Elderly people live longer, we don't want to pay for their wellbeing and we don't want to care for them ourselves because we've been told that being employed is far more important and that caring is someone elses job. But we can't bear to hear the endless story of elder abuse in hospitals and care homes either.

Many illnesses that would previously have killed us have now become chronic conditions and the health service was never designed to care for infirmities that can last 50 years. That's not to say that it shouldn't - it absolutely should - but whether we like it or not it all costs money, and our population is growing, aging, becoming more and more unwell . . .

The London School of Economics is discussing it. Is there a Pagan thealogy of assisted suicide? Because there certainly are any number of Christian takes on the subject, some of them not as hardcore as we might imagine.

Jack Kervorkian, a poineer of assisted suicide, died today aged 83.


Janval Phagan said...

It's the economy; and it's fear.

Hospices and charities, to me, over-emphasise the care and research given to cancer, but overlook the other life-limiting diseases such as Motor Neurone (a truly horrendous condition). I've just spent some hours trying to find out what end of life care there is in hospices for that particular condition, and found virtually NO mention or easily accessible information in the UK. Therefore, I conclude that for many people they get the idea that there is no support for them or their families and suicide (assisted or otherwise) is their only option.

This is borne out by my own family's experience with my cousin Melvillee and her husband Stephen. Melvillee had MND for many years and was cared for by her immediate family. She 'soldiered on' as her health broke down virtually on a month-by-month basis. NHS care seemed sparce and innefective, and certainly did not cope well with her particular circumstances. Eventually, having come to the point where she could not tolerate the situation any further, she was reduced to arranging her own death. (Something we had all discussed as a 'hypothetical' on many occasions.)

Too ill to travel to Sweden, (she had 'left it too late' to make the arrangements); she tidied her affairs, wrote a suicide note and entered into her diary "Tomorrow I shall die".
Together they enjoyed their last night in this life. Good champagne, a lovely meal (such as she could taste - her ability to swallow being virtually nonexistent); played music they enjoyed and a tube was run into the bedroom, strewn with flowers, to administer the carbon monoxide that would end her life peacefully.

Whether or not Stephen actually intended to die with her - or whether he would have been prosecuted for assisting her suicide are moot points. Nonetheless, they were both found the following day by a family member.

We'll never know whether or not any more help than they received was on offer. We'll never know whether it was a suicide pact (as only Melvillee's note was found). We DO know that she decided the time and method AND PLACE of her death. Her life had become intolerable on so many levels.

How have we reacted to this?
Relief that her suffering was ended. Relief that she was at home, with her beloved: in familiar surroundings without strangers, without other people's opinions and biases being forced onto her.

Whether or not she would have been considered 'too expensive to keep alive'? Well, she gave SO much to her community all through her life. Her time,had she charged for it, was given to others as she generously shared all she had and who she was - and would have many times over offset the money spent on her.... all that is, except for the charges she would have incurred going into full-time care. Such a move would have neccessitated the sale of the family home, the car, and the bankrupting of Stephen and is children to cover the fees. Not for them the charitable help from MacMillan nurses or other cancer charities. The hidden diseases and conditions cost more than life - they cost money.

Clare Slaney said...

Janval, thank you so much for this moving comment.