Like the rest of the blog world I have just watched the Terry Pratchett documentary about assisted dying from Monday night (just love iplayer, what a fantastic invention!). I have resisted reading what others have written until seeing it myself so if I am repeating what others have said I apologise.
I wanted to watch it because I was actually very interested, aside from the hype, I wasn’t sure about actually witnessing the death of one of the subjects of the programme but I was prepared to turn it off if necessary. I think I kind of had a view that assisted dying was non Christian and couldn’t align it with the word of God but it’s not something I had considered in great detail.
That said I have known people close to me who have tried, and thankfully failed, to take their own lives. So I watched the programme with some anxiety, knowing the reality of it, particularly for those surrounding the situation.
There is part of me that thinks actually it is quite within a persons rights to chose whether to live or die. I mean people can die from drinking too much, smoking too much and so on, when they know full well the dangers, yet they are in essence killing themselves in their own way. But I know ones mental state has a huge part to play in that behaviour as it would suicide.
I thought in general that the programme was very sensitively handled. I know the BBC has been accused of pushing the issue but I didn’t feel that at all. I thought it was quite balanced, and just looked at the human side of things rather than political or moral. I was quite moved when Pratchetts assistant was obviously finding it hard to deal with the fact that Andrew Colgan, MS sufferer, had set a date for his own death.
However I did have, perhaps cynnical thoughts, about the way it all seemed so middle class. The very fact that there was a huge fee for this service (and I know dignitas is not for profit) puts it out of the reach of many. I felt, particularly when the Smedleys were talking, that there was almost an air of I have always got /paid for what I want and this will continue in death. We do live in a society where we want everything now and the well-off can buy pretty much whatever they want. Even death it seems. As I said maybe that is rather cynnical, but it just seemed that Peter was treating his illness in this way, just another thing to pay off.
The overwhelming thing I felt was that these decisions were being made on fear. A fear of the unknown future, fear of how they would feel when their illnesses progressed further, fear of how long they might have to live with as Smedley said ‘this beastly and undignified illness’. Colgan also said ‘I can’t and don’t want to live the life I have now’, rather telling I thought, it was like he couldn’t see past his illness, obviously life was different than it had been, but he wasn’t able to see good things or draw any positives from his life now and of the future or see how he could live his life, but in a different way.
Obviously I have no idea how these 2 people were feeling themselves, I do not know the pain of their illness, the embarrasment of it or the indignity. I am not the one suffering,and I cannot begin to understand what would make them decide to take their own lives. But I can’t help feeling that as a Christian one professes to love God and to trust Him. In all things. And from that Christian perspective, choosing to take ones own life is not an example of trusting in God…