Assisted suicide may allow some to live longer

The BBC reports:

The court has previously heard that Ms Fleming, who is not attending the three-day hearing, is confined to a wheelchair, physically helpless, lives in constant pain, cannot swallow and suffers choking sessions which wear her out.

She wants to be allowed die peacefully with dignity at home, when she chooses, in the arms of her long-term partner, Tom Curran, without him facing the threat of jail.

Brian Murray, senior counsel, told seven judges hearing the appeal in Dublin on Wednesday that his client was being denied what she seeks for fear that without an absolute ban on assisted suicide there could be more relaxed practices by doctors.

“It is our position that it is possible to design legislation that facilitates the plaintiff in a way that does not present any risk to the involuntary death of others,” he said.

Mr Murray said it may be legitimate government policy to discourage people from choosing death over life, but he argued it was not a proper basis for telling people what decision they can make about their lives.

What strikes me in cases like this, is provision for assisted suicide may allow those in this situation to live longer. If you know your partner or a doctor can assist you to end your life when your quality of life has become intolerable, you can put that day off until as long as possible.

But if you know that once you reach the point of being physically unable to do it yourself, then there is no legal way for you to end your suffering, you may commit suicide years before you otherwise would have to.

That is not just a theory. It has happened here in New Zealand. I’ve blogged on such a case before.

Just as I think the rights of someone when living should be paramount when it comes to issues such as organ donation and burial location, I think you should also have the right to decide to die, and gain assistance if necessary.

Of course there must be stringent safeguards. But the debate should be on what those safeguards should be, not on whether people should be made to suffer.

In December, Ms Fleming told a three judge division of the High Court court the ban on assisted suicide was forcing her to live against her will in a life of pain and indignity.

The former lecturer is almost completely physically incapable and would need help to take her own life.

The irony is that if she was not in such an agonising condition, should would be able to kill herself without assistance.

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