Dear Mr. Lewis,
Although I will vote for you as my Labour candidate, whatever your position on this issue, I want you to know with what joy I heard the decision on the House of Lords on Debbie Purdy's case.
This is a de facto change in the law.
As someone who has lived with knowledge that I am HIV+ since 1990, and a Person with Aids since 2005 (and still healthy) and as someone who has fought and fights to stay alive and healthy, I am delighted with this decision. I will fight for life as long as I can, but now I see that, as a country, we are moving to accept a death with dignity approach.
I don't believe those who are mentally unable, such as those with *advanced* Alzheimers, should be euthanised, but I do believe that those who sign off on taking Nembutal should be able to.
To me this decision means I might avoid supurrating to death like my friend David Bowen, who (to my shame) I avoided helping to die in 1993.
We need a law here, which does not just allow the rich to go to Switzerland, and which protects pressurization of elderly people, but which allows us to know we will not die in distraction.
I respect your views, and that you must vote according to your conscience. I just need to convey that as a person who may face this issue, I feel joy and relief today.
And I still hope to outlive you!
If I were your MP I would reply ...
"Thank you for your letter. This is a subject which arouses strong passions. However I cannot share your joy at this ruling for a number of reasons.
(1) As you state, this is almost a de facto change to the law. This is not to be welcomed. It is a legislative coup, driving a coach and horses through the Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1861 – a sovereign Act of Parliament – without reference to that Parliament. Effectively, they have declared that it is lawful for somebody to help a person to commit suicide abroad but not in the UK. This amounts to a change in primary legislation without any reference to Parliament.
(2) The Law Lords said she had the right to choose how she died, under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR is now deemed to grant one the right to determine how and when one may die. Our own highest court has made determination on matters of life & death not under their own judgement based on our own national laws, but in complete subjugation to a supra-national organisation.
(3) It follows from this judgement that not just the terminally ill, but the chronically ill or disabled, the grievously bereaved, the philosophically miserable and the amorously unsuccessful should have the same "right" to choose the time & manner of their demise. After all, if the individual is the sole arbiter of the value of his or her own life, and if some adult reckons that living is no longer worth the candle, then who may gainsay them? It follows that, should someone volunteer to die in the masochistic ecstasy of being mutilated & eaten (as in the case of Bernd-Jurgen Brandes) the law should be silent. If my life only has the worth I accord to it, then it has no objective value at all; and if it has no objective value, then why should anyone else care for it? It undermines society's commitment to support fellow members in adversity and encourages abandonment of the ailing. It completely upturns the principles that I think are best beautifully expressed by John Donne.
Dignity is not an innate human quality. People do not have dignity, it something that others & society bestow to them.
There are great debates to be had around whether the lengths we go to to extend human life are appropriate. For myself I would prefer to see us investing in the superb work of the palliate care undertaken by our superb hospice movement, as opposed to spending vast amounts on research into life extending treatments. The hospice movement to my mind bestow greater dignity to the terminally ill than watching as some is lethally injected.
I thank you for your kind support and your recognition of the need to be able to vote according to my conscience on these issues. I would be more than happy if you were to outlive and trust that our nation will always bestow you with dignity in death as in life.
I thought you were a Catholic? You might want to pop down to Bury Library sometime and have a look at the CCC...
People who wish to be helped to commit suicide should not have to go abroad to receive assistance lawfully.
Suicide may be a sin, but not all sins can sensibly be legislated against. I understood that is why suicide was decriminalised.
It is time a new Roy Jenkins fostered a new series of social reforms under the wing of a new Labour Government.
You are right of course, re. Catholic teaching, but the CCC is very different from older documents which always condemned the committer of suicide. The CCC says we can never just condemn people who reach their limits, even though this was done in the past.
Jesus, when it was time, "gave up the spirit". Sometimes, faced by the cross of modern technology,we might request to do the same.
You are absolutely correct. We need a new Roy Jenkins as Home Secretary.
Sam Brittan, even older than I, has this to say:
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