Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rebutting Pratchett's Reasonableness.

Changing the law would enshrine the idea that we can and should choose the time and place and manner of our death. Death would come under our control. Inevitably, we would use that new power in such a way as to avoid the pain and suffering which dying often entails; and we would soon be persuaded that it was a generous thing to do, because it would free up NHS budgets.

And this new cultural norm would gradually dispense with the whole object of dying, which is precisely that it is out of our control. Those who accompany the dying – as I did recently, at the bedside of my father – know that it is an incredibly profound process, the crystallisation of human life and meaning.


A good death is only one kind of death: it's when God – or Nature, if you don't believe – remains in charge of the moment, and a person surrenders to that invitation, hopefully borne lovingly by family and carers, after a gruelling journey of renunciation. That's why killing – whether in war, murder, suicide, or assisted death – can never result in a good death. God doesn't kill.

And that's why the chilly reasonableness of a planned death must never be allowed in law. Precisely because it is reasonable to jump to avoid the gruelling business of dying, a good death would soon be seen as unreasonable – and services and budgets adjusted accordingly. It is an appalling prospect.

From Austen Ivereigh in today's Guardian.

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