Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Assisted Suicide Was NOT "His Only Viable Option"

From the moment that Daniel James drank the milky liquid and laid his head on the pillow, there was no going back. Within minutes his eyes had closed, his breathing slowed and then he was dead, his once-vigorous body peacefully but lethally shut down by the barbiturate solution he had swallowed.

Such is the scene at Dignitas, the Swiss clinic that offers assisted suicide, where Daniel died last month. Nan Maitland, who has previously accompanied somebody committing suicide at Dignitas, said: “It takes place in a flat, very plainly furnished and decorated but extremely nice. It is a new place...

His family issued a heartfelt statement. “His death was an extremely sad loss for his family, friends and all those that care for him, but no doubt a welcome relief from the ‘prison’ he felt his body had become.”

In addition, his mother said: “He couldn’t walk, had no hand function, but constant pain in all of his fingers. He was incontinent, suffered uncontrollable spasms in his legs and upper body and needed 24-hour care.

“While not everyone in Dan’s situation would find it as unbearable as Dan, what right does any human being have to tell any other that they have to live such a life, filled with terror, discomfort and indignity?”

Julie James said Dignitas had been her son’s only viable option...

He could not move from the chest down and lost the use of all his limbs. Unable to make the enormous mental adjustment from robust athlete to tetraplegic, he became convinced that he wanted to end his life. His condition, however, meant that he could not commit suicide, unless he chose the long and painful horrors of starvation. Instead, he wanted help.

To opponents of euthanasia, the help he should have had was not from Dignitas. They believe he should have had help to rediscover hope and to live a new kind of life.

“This young man, Daniel James, did not need help to kill himself: he needed help to live with severe disability,” said Dr Peter Saunders of the Care Not Killing Alliance, which campaigns against assisted suicide. “It is most unfortunate that he fell into the hands of Dignitas when he did. He was still very much in the acute stage of loss and he was also almost certainly profoundly depressed. It is a terrible tragedy.”

Saunders added: “What is needed is a more positive outlook in caring for people’s physical and spiritual needs. People can come through these difficulties.”

One who did was Roger Addison, who, as a promising 21-year-old rugby player for Pontypool, was paralysed in a scrum in 1966. Now 63, he resides at a Cardiff hospital, attended by family and rugby friends. His determination to live appears unwavering after 40 years of serious disability.

“Roger has this huge belief that he is here for a purpose,” said Arthur Crane, an official at his old club. “He has been an inspiration.” ...

(Source: The Times (U.K.), October 19)