What I write here is really only relevant to people who are interested in the law, or over 50 years of age. The fact that a woman had to go to the High Court to discover whether her husband would be charged with the criminal offence or not, of aiding and abetting suicide, if he went with her to Switzerland to help her and be with her, in her last hours, for a clinical suicide, to me is totally illogical. First of all, on his wedding day, he took an oath to keep her and look after her in sickness and in health. That was a religious undertaking, as well as a legal one as it is used in the oath in registry offices. The fact that suicide is a criminal act, even if it is justified, because the condition is unendurable, is surely based on religious doctrines that have come down through the ages. So here we have a dichotomy, do we obey the law, or standby our oath? The history of religious intolerance, with heinous acts, and unspeakable punishment for merely having adherence to a different version of the same religion, should itself make any law based on religious doctrine, suspect.
I wish to tell you about a painting my mother made just before she died. She had contracted cancer in the neck and shoulder and come to us in Ireland for company and to be cared for. Religious all her life, she became a Christian Scientist in latter years, so when she became seriously ill she took no medicine, nor the help of a doctor. Shortly before she died she painted a picture in water-colours. The picture was a series of concentric rough circles, in varying intensity of colours starting in brown going through deep red, red, a light red through orange and yellow until she came to a blistering white in the centre. The ragged edges where the colours intercepted, and indeed sometimes merged, were spattered with dark thorns at irregular intervals. ‘That,’ she said, ‘is what it feels like.’
I wrote on ‘The sterile landscape of the old, 25, 4, 07’, and ‘The responsibilities of old age, 28, 5, 08,’ which can be found currently on the blog, I also wrote a piece about euthanasia which has since been withdrawn. What is undeniably essential is that there is a legal framework to ensure that people do not take their own lives without careful thought and guidance if necessary, and that if they do so, they do it within a legal framework, approved by two professional opinions, either medical or legal, and conducted in an approved and regulated environment.
We will never stop people from committing suicide, but the cost to the individual concerned in the act, also to him or her if it’s a botched attempt, to relatives, and to the officials who have to clear up afterwards must surely demand a better system. This doesn’t take into account the cost to the ratepayer or the government in the subsequent investigation, which could include heavy plant and divers, to ascertain whether it was indeed suicide or murder.
It is time that those responsible for our lives and our welfare, appreciate the problems that the elderly face, and in many cases suffer, starting with their dignity, stretching to intolerable pain and psychological suffering, unnecessarily, even in some conditions not being aware of such. If a racehorse breaks its leg, in some cases it could be saved, but it is shot out of hand, mainly for economy’s sake. In the case of the humans it is not finance that is at stake, it is psychological and physical suffering from an outdated concept, in a country that does not hold anywhere near the religious belief that it once did.