Friday, 31 July 2009

"It's a right to live"

If you've noticed a distinct lack of blog postings from me in the past month, that'll be because my internet service provider have been dragging their feet since I moved house. It's all hunky d now - well it will be as of next Thursday when my broadband FINALLY gets activated - but for the past four weeks or so I've been using this time to have a bit of a break. Also, have you ever tried using one of those wireless dongles? Fucking useless. I'm using one right now, and it's draining my patience like a puppy sat quietly in the corner chewing up the furniture. In any case, I'm back to regular postings. If this makes you happy, then thanks a lot, you are the reason I continue to write these disgruntled sweary essays. Cheers :) Well. That and the fact that it fools my brain into thinking I'm at least doing something constructive with my writing while I slave away in the service industry. "I'm not a mopper! I'm creative!"


It's always been one of my staid old beliefs that I've kept hold of throughout my teenage years to adulthood, this idea that death is nobody's business and that we should largely stay out of it. Studying politics (well, ok, Modern Studies if you want to be pedantic) at High School at the same time as RMPS (religious, moral and philosophical studies) shocked me into a world of thinking and opinions in a way that no other subject had before. Of course we'd covered moral stances and implications in RE before, and in English too, thanks to our teacher's extremely violent imagination (if I could be an English teacher, I'd use him as the benchmark - along with a couple of others. He sounds insane, but actually having somebody that interested, angry and passionate about the written word probably gave me the idea to actually become a writer in the first place. Congrats Mr Howson, Mr Garriock. You've created a monster.) but nothing had ever made me realise that I could make my own opinions up until then. This toxic mixture of faith, politics and morals quickly turned me into a precocious know-it-all with very decidedly (and quite questionably) solid beliefs. The type of person I like to demoralise at parties. I'm a bad person. Nobody could sway me - or if they could, I'd take on their ideas and never admit they'd given them to me. I wanted a rounded personality, a belief system and to understand the world. What they didn't tell me was that nobody really ever has all of these boxes ticked, and I certainly wouldn't have managed to achieve them being the jumped-up little opinionated prick that I was. Still, being a teenager is fun, isn't it?

The reason for the life story is to explain my beliefs on death, and specifically, death using human intervention. For years (after watching a documentary on death row, I have to admit) I have believed with certainty and conviction that captial punishment is Wrong. It is the longest-standing opinon that I have, since my views on abortion were quashed nearly three years ago thanks to a heated drunken debate with somebody with far more life experience and far less self-righteousness than myself. Luckily I'm more mature now. Had I been 16 I'd have probably yelled my ideas at them until they cried. Killing somebody because they commited a crime seems to me like the ultimate in hypocrisy. Rather than dealing with the problem of crime, it merely represents a quick fix solution - shoot the bastard - which will never fix things in the long term. How many years have people been snetenced to death for doing bad things? A lot of them, that's how many. So to me, not only is the death penalty cruel, unjust and simply arrogant (who gives a person the right to take away a life, by the way?), it's never going to fix the problems it claims to. There will always be murderers and drug smugglers, and killing a few of them isn't going to change that.

Capital Punishment is easy to have an opinon on though. As a subject, it's one of those unlikely dinner party winners that gets everybody enthusiastically engaged, like zoos, or Jon Gaunt. It's harder when the story has no discernible "baddy", and instead has the figurehead of an increasingly frail woman who is slowly succumbing to a debilitating disease. Debbie Purdy as a younger more healthy woman, was the type of person who'd think nothing of skydiving or bunjee jumping. She liked to live life to its fullest, travelling the world and eventually meeting her Husband while she reviewed his salsa band in Singapore. It was a crushing blow then, to find out aged 32, that she had Multiple Sclerosis and that her occasional symptoms would gradually become more severe. It is her, and many other disease-sufferer's opinion that they should be able to choose to end their lives if they feel their life is being compromised by their illness. "It's not a right to die, it's a right to live," says Purdy, "and a right to live with dignity, and with choice, and to know what your choices are." Debbie Purdy was not fighting in court for the right to die - many have tried and failed this course of action - but instead was fighting for the right to know whether her husband Omar Puente would be prosecuted if he accompanied her to the Swiss euthenasia clinic Dignitas.

The House of Lords ruled that it would be a breach of human rights for Debbie not to know the fate of her Husband before her death, a ruling that's been met with joy from the couple but derision from pro-life campaigners, who say that the decision could mean people pressuring elderly or terminally ill patients into choosing euthenasia. The groups claim that assisted suicide would be easy to pressure an ill person into, because of their fear of being a burden. The new legislation will not mean that the law will be more lenient on people who chosse to accompany their loved ones to Dignitas - Omar Puente could still face 14 years in prison, which is a common mistake some of the more indignant campaigners are making. In 2002, Motor Neurone Disease sufferer Diane Pretty travelled to Switzerland alone to end her life after the European Court of Human Rights refused to grant her similar rights to Debbie Purdy. Should Omar be faced with a jail sentence, Debbie could still be left with the tough decision to make while she is still able to on her own, and this could be years before she is actually ready to visit Dignitas.

Euthnanasia is a difficult subject to be certain about. For somebody who believes that death is not for any person to dole out, stories such as Diane Pretty's work pretty hard towards changing my mind. If she had stayed in the UK and committed suicide, it would have been a crime. The idea that it should be your choice when you die is one I have never thought of before, and Debbie Purdy is a great advocate of this way of thinking. That you should be allowed to die with dignity and with those you love seems a fair assesment of her requests, and it would be hard to find somebody who felt that they were unreasonable. The only thing I'm left to know with certainty about the subject is that Purdy, Pretty and the hundreds of other people who sought to end their lives at Dignitas over the years are and were extremely brave. I'm not sure I'd have made such a decision in their position, not because I believe it's wrong, but because I'd be afraid of dying, and accepting that the desease would not simply dissapear. If there was such a thing as a God, to let Purdy have her husband by her side as she ends her life the way she wants to without retribution seems like the least he could do after putting her through the hell of living with MS. Done correctly, new legislation to enable people to travel to Switzerland to keep their loved ones comapny as they die would be the correct and compassionate thing to do in cases such as these. After all, maybe it should be our choice when we go, if the worst happens.
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