Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Commission and omission

I wrote a red-hot post about the Terry Pratchett programme yesterday, and then thought I'd see if the Guardian might like it. And so I did, and they did. This was the result: Comment is free: Choosing to Die.

Did you know that today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day? Funnily enough, it's not been mentioned on the BBC or in the media. I only discovered this from Peter Saunders' blog, which is excellent on medical ethics and policy. In his post today he writes: "It is often argued that legalising euthanasia or assisted suicide would be a recipe for elder abuse. Given the vulnerability of many older people, who already feel themselves to be a financial, emotional or care burden on others, this is a powerful reason for not changing the law. 
"There are too many people already who have an interest, financial or otherwise, in an older person’s death. Let’s not give them any encouragement. And let’s work to honour, protect and uphold the older members of our community." 
Dr Peter Saunders

Peter Saunders is one of our nation's doughtiest defenders of human life. What the media world prefers to forget he constantly reminds us of. He is often in the front line of contumely and personal animosity. For example, I listened to a rather shrill Margo MacDonald accusing him of scuppering her euthanasia bill in the Scottish Parliament on the Nolan programme on Sunday night, as part of the BBC's three-day Pratchett Fest.

The MNDA had asked if I'd like to participate in the discussion, but as I don't trust my voice under stress at that time of night, I instead sent this email, which Stephen Nolan read out. It said it better than I'd have been able to, and expressed the widespread feeling that the BBC is really not presenting a balanced viewpoint on matters of life and death:
"I have PLS (Primary Lateral Sclerosis), a rare form of MND. My prognosis is slow but inevitable. I'm not exactly looking forward to it, but neither am I frightened by it.  I understand you're discussing Terry Pratchett's TV programme broadcast tomorrow.

"As my voice is even more rubbish at this time of night than usual, I'm just emailing.

"Obviously I've not seen the programme, and so I can't comment on specifics.  But I'm concerned about it because it sounds as if it will be one-sided with a gesture towards another view. For one thing it's presented by Terry Pratchett whose views are well known after his Dimbleby lecture. He's known to be campaigning for the legalisation of assisted dying, or suicide.  And it's been widely trailed that it will show a death of someone with MND in the Dignitas facility in Zurich in favourable terms. This could be regarded as encouraging others to do the same.

"I understand that the BBC admits this is not an unbiased programme. I'm all for a debate on the subject, but I'd like to know if the BBC has plans for a programme presented by an opponent of legalising assisted suicide. Otherwise it seems it's not being impartial, which it surely should be.

"The large majority of disabled people in a recent Comres poll indicated they were opposed to legalising assisted dying. The reason is because we fear pressure being put on us as we are costly and less valuable ("a burden").  Were assisted suicide to be legalised, no doubt its proponents would argue under great safeguards, experience has shown in places like Holland that involuntary termination of life follows - and the reason seems to me that life is no longer considered inviolable. 

"Terry Pratchett's mantra is "My life, my death, my choice". The trouble is that my choice has consequences for others - health professionals, carers, the vulnerable and the rest of society. It's taken our society a long time to stop even the state taking life. I don't want to return to the days when life is ours for the taking."

1 comment:

  1. Great article, Michael. You are an encourager and strengthener of us all. Let the living water flow. Love to both, Mary W.