We have had two successful and very interesting meetings since the last newsletter. On 20th March we had a talk by Ann Leedham who works for Dignity in Dying –the new name for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. She was largely preaching to the converted, but it was a useful talk in that she defined Assisted Dying, Assisted Suicide and explained the work of Dignity in Dying and the sister organisation Compassion in Dying. Dignity in Dying researches the area and involves itself in campaigning. Ann gave all the arguments for helping people to die, should they wish to. She pointed out that we have to travel to Switzerland to access it. This has the disadvantage that people have to go while they are still well enough to travel. Palliative care is not always successful or even available, and shot down the slippery slope argument. She believes that there should be open and honest discussion about what sort of end of life care we want for ourselves. At the moment assisted suicide is legal in The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland and assisted dying in three US states. There was a discussion in parliament the week after our meeting, but the vote was against any change despite the fact that an increasing majority of the population favour choice for the individual.
Compassion in Dying is the organisation which can provide you with information about their rights. People should know that they can refuse treatment, provided that they are considered to have sufficient mental capacity to make the decision. Mental capacity is the crucial test. For this reason you should consider making an advanced decision about what sort of treatment you may want so that it is clear what your wishes are if you are unable to express them, for instance in the event of an accident. Forms suitable for recording this can be obtained from Compassion in Dying. They must be witnessed and copies should be given to your family, solicitor, and doctor. They should be reviewed from time to time to show you haven’t changed your mind.
A commission suggested in 2012 that there is a need to change the law on assisted suicide. There will be a mass lobby of Parliament on 4th July. We know that families and friends who accompany people to Switzerland are not at the moment at risk of prosecution, but practice could change.
The group has a video in the library which sets out all these arguments.