Thursday, 18 June 2009

Thoughtful interlude

Tomorrow we're due to be going up to London to discuss the assisted suicide amendment with Debbie Purdy. She's been a doughty campaigner for legalising it for quite some years now. I don't know if she wanted that option from the moment she was diagnosed with MS. I'll probably find out tomorrow. For me, when I was diagnosed with MND, I didn't think I needed the option and still don't. You can see why the BBC producers thought it would be 'interesting' to put us together! But of course there are wider issues than our personal preferences, as there are amendments being proposed to the Coroners and Justice Bill in the House of Lords next Friday, stepping towards making it legal to assist someone take their own life for compassionate reasons. As I've said, it's a more complex issue than it first appears. Most people apparently think, 'Why not help someone die who's in pain and really wants to? It's their life, after all.' But the state's job is FIRST to protect the vulnerable, such as children. And if my right to choice endangers the rights of others, such as the disabled, the elderly and the chronically ill, then their right to life needs to be protected. At present we have a system where the Director of Public Prosecutions has the discretion whether to prosecute someone, for example, who takes a loved one to Zurich to commit suicide, and in a 100% of those cases has chosen not to, i.e. to temper justice with mercy (as Portia might have put it).

Anyway, that's tomorrow's conversation. But as you'll know from reading my book, I don't pass judgement on those who are in a dark place. How can you? I love Gerard Manley Hopkins' sonnet, 'No worse there is none', written about his desperate depression:
"O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep." Don't underestimate it if you've never been there, hanging over the abyss by your fingernails. (Of course, he says it better.)

Today, by contrast has been a quiet day - the weekly shower, ordering more of my books for my depleted stock, another visit to Zoe at The Mill (where I saw two of the moorhen chicks with one adult - Zoe tells me there are three in all) and now relaxing in the conservatory. A thoughtful interlude.

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