End of life matters – is this the ultimate Consultation?
Death and dying touches all our lives, and as I’ve got older I’ve had friends and relatives die at ages from 32 to 102. Under 70 has been rare but it seems unfair when people pass away earlier than ‘their time’. The other thing about death and dying is many people find it awkward to talk about – and what DO you say to people who have just lost a loved one? My dad died this year at almost 92, a long and mostly happy life, and I’ve no problem with talking about it with people. But normally the conversation is a short one as it’s not seen as a hot topic to spend much time on!
However it should be. We’re all living longer now, and we’ve all seen people ‘kept alive’, often in pain and suffering, because nobody is allowed to ask doctors to legally help them end their life if they want to go when there is no prospect of a quality of life remaining. Doctors, like many of the public – and we’re all stakeholders in this one, folks! – are split in their support or not of assisted dying. A recent survey showed 84% of the people in that survey wanted the BMA ( the doctor’s professional body ) to at least be ‘neutral’ or supportive of patient’s wishes to be helped to die. However they refuse to listen and want to ‘not talk about it’ even at their conference sessions. 29,000 people petitioned them directly this year alone to change their mind.
Often in Consultation we talk about ‘hard to reach’ groups – which may be ethnic or special needs minorities who have difficulty getting heard on issues that affect them. This is different in that EVERYONE is affected and not hard to reach, but how do you consult on a topic that both affects everyone, but may be difficult to talk about for some? I think the key in all difficult consultations like this is finding a number of pressure and campaign groups – see below – that you can approach, and use as research areas to understand the topic better. The BMA, despite being all stakeholders and another relevant group, clearly aren’t keen to be involved! So I think the issue is one that must be led by Government. David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ might have seen this as a key issue, but others in Parliament already do. Lord Falconer tabled a bill in 2014, but it fell at Second Reading. See here for details.
It will only be a matter of time before this issue resurfaces – Recently Desmond Tutu said:
“People who are terminally ill should have the option of dignified and compassionate assisted dying, alongside the wonderful palliative care that already exists,” concludes Archbishop Tutu in the video.
Canada and some US states, Switzerland ( we’ve all heard of Dignitas ) all have moved to a position where, with the proper safeguards and checks, you can ask for an assisted death. www.dignityindying.org.uk is the UK body that is campaigning for change, and Baroness Molly Meacher has recently been appointed as chair, affirming her support. If you’d like to be consulted and involved in this debate, whether you’re for or against it, then Twitter @dignityindying is an easy way to start connecting with the ‘Big Conversation’.
Death is going to happen to all of us. Don’t you want to have a say as to how and when you go? I do. Get involved if it’s important to you or your loved ones.
I’ll be writing more blog posts in coming weeks on important life issues – breast cancer awareness is likely the next one.