Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Should Assisted Suicide Be Legalised ?
The issue of assisted suicide has repeatedly come up in the UK over the past six months or so. The way the law in the UK stands at the moment, a family member or a doctor assisting a person to commit suicide could possibly be charged with manslaughter. Assisted suicide is legal in some jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the state of Oregon in the USA.
The case of Tony Nicklinson in the UK has recently put the spotlight on the issue. Mr Nicklinson, who in his fifties, suffered a massive stroke leaving him paralysed from the neck down was completely dependent on his family for his every need. Despite the stoke leaving him speechless, his wife Jane found a way of communicating with him via eye movements linked to a screen. After having suffered the consequences of the stroke for several years, he indicated that he wanted to commit suicide because he found his continued existence painful, demeaning and unbearable.
Tony Nicklinson brought a case before the courts seeking permission to give both his doctor and family immunity from prosecution if they assisted him in the act of suicide. This permission was refused by the judge who heard the case. Mr Nicklinson was so devastated by the ruling that he refused to take food following it, then got pneumonia and has since died. Since his death, his wife Jane has led a campaign to have assisted suicide decriminalised.
I personally do not see why anyone assisting in a suicide should be prosecuted especially as the act of suicide itself is legal. Why should anyone helping someone commit a legal act be charged with any offence? Is assisted suicide the only example in the whole body of laws where helping someone commit a legal act is illegal? I therefore think the judge’s decision in the Nicklinson case could be challenged purely on legal grounds alone.
Some faith groups have got involved in the debate saying any premature ending of life is wrong. If most faith groups had their way, the act of suicide itself would be illegal. Someone wishing to commit suicide only wants to terminate their own life for their own specific reasons. Why shouldn’t a person be allowed to do this enlisting the help of others if necessary? Isn’t the right to end a life at the time of a person’s own choosing, a right like any other?
I think that it is ccrrect to highlight the issue of assisted suicide on this blog as the need for it usually arises out of a health problem. The laws in the country you are viewing this page from may differ from the UK’s laws referred to above, but the principles involved are the same. If you have got anything to say on this post, use the comments box below to express it.