'Death is always tragic,' I said yesterday, and of course it's not true. It isn't always tragic. It's true that the death of the two hostages in Baghdad IS tragic. I had an email yesterday from someone who knew them in Iraq. Yesterday was 'awful', he said. There was so much shared grief over these two young men pointlessly and ruthlessly cut down (one presumes) before their time.
However, in my defence, death is 'the last enemy', and life itself is good. And the taking of life is not. So although it's inevitable, death isn't a positive. It may come as a relief, but that doesn't make it 'good'. It's never appropriate to say, 'Well, it's a GOOD thing THEY died.' It's interesting by the way that the Voluntary Euthanasia Society rebranded itself as Dignity in Dying, and avoids the term 'assisted suicide' preferring 'assisted dying'. On the other side we have Care not Killing, which is trying to make the opposite point. I suppose the implication is that suicide involves intention, and that there is a vital distinction which needs to be preserved. I certainly think that to imply there's no difference between medication intended to relieve pain, albeit shortening life, and medication administered with the intention of ending life is naïve and false.
One thing that Debbie Purdy and I agreed about on Friday was that these are issues which deserve full discussion, in my view fuller than a fag-end of an amendment attached to a bill in the Lords. She felt, I think, that an amendment to provide protection for someone accompanying a loved one to commit suicide abroad was worth having. I feel that this would introduce into British law a principle that isn't there at present. In fact the proposed amendment seems to say that assisting someone to commit suicide abroad should not be treated as 'an act capable of assisting or encouraging suicide'. As Humpty Dumpty said, 'It means what I choose it to mean.'