16 February 2010

 

Mercy Killing

I just happened to catch that part of the programme last night where Ray Gosling confesses that he suffocated his lover in his hospital bed many years ago because they had an understanding on this matter and the chap was in pain and suffering from terminal AIDS. The doctor either didn't suspect anything or turned a blind eye out of a similar kind of compassion. I was in a similar situation some 15 or 20 years ago when my aged favourite aunt was bedridden in a nursing home, profoundly deaf and blind and suffering from dementia. She called out continuously for her mum (long since dead) and also shouted frequently that she wanted to die. She was a prisoner in her own now useless body and the sensory deprivation had literally driven her mad. I considered seriously the option of suffocation when other visitors were out of the room but did not do it. At the time I was a single parent with two young children to care for and this responsibility stayed my hand - a spell of imprisonment for me would have damaged their lives irreparably.

But if I had not had that responsibility I wish I would have had the courage to see it through in what must surely be one of the most humane impulses anyone can have - to put a loved one out of their misery even at the risk of heavy punishment. I hope Ray Gosling has nothing more to worry about than a serious interrogation by the police.

Comments:
As I remember an interview on Radio 4 Today this morning, Ray Gosling said he had no doubt that the doctors knew what had happened - indeed that they knew they were giving him the opportunity.
 
Thanks Anonymous. BBC East Mids has just had Bishop Tim Stevens on to give the CofE's view = 'all lives have equal value under God' and to pass a law that legitimises assisted suicide or mercy killing would open the doors to the exploitation of vulnerable people. This response consists of two positions, the first 'theological' one is presented in the form 'our religion teaches us' which is common from priests when asked the direct question 'what do YOU think?'. This leaves it open that they may have different thoughts privately. The second point is one that needs debating and is the most powerful for the opponents of legalising assisted suicide. It is known as the 'slippery slope' argument and has to be taken seriously. For my part I think that, on balance, legalising assisted suicide and mercy killing would lead to a good deal less suffering. True, among the genuine cases where the deceased had freely consented or requested 'release' there would be some abuses but most of these, I feel, would be identified by the police using normal methods of detection (especially re motive) and the perpetrators would be charged accordingly. The plus side would be an enormous reduction in the amount of unnecessary suffering and a general improvement in each person's perspective on their own future as they realise that they will have it in their power to opt out from a painful or pointless existence.
 

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