Assisted dying… should it be allowed?

The BBC is featuring this topic prominently this morning, following an interview with Esther Rantzen, who has stage four lung cancer and has registered with Dignitas.

My own view is that people should be allowed to choose their own fate, as long as they are mentally stable.

What do you think?

  • Yes
  • No
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On balance, yes. People should be able to choose to end their life with dignity.

But my god, it’s a pathway fraught with difficulty. It puts the doctors who would have to sign off on that decision in a really difficult position. There is a point where not wanting to be a burden to family becomes blurred with family not wanting you to be a burden to them. There are so many safeguards and checks that would need to be put in place I wouldn’t know where to start.


I tend to agree although it is a legal minefield. The concept of mental stability is difficult. Many people, when ill, find it difficult to visualise that they may be able to have a quality of life in the future even if their illness or disability is not actually curable. Then there is also the possibility that they may feel isolated or a burden on their family. These can be improved with palliative care but it is still possible that an individual will get to the point that they would rather just go to sleep and not wake up.

I saw a documentary that Terry Pratchett made some years ago (I think for Channel 4) where he followed a man to Switzerland to have an assisted death via Dignitas. I have to say that I found the whole thing rather disturbing. It wasn’t so much that the man had chosen to end his life but that it wasn’t on his own terms. He had to travel abroad and was not in his own home with a limited number of friends/family with him. His actual death was relatively quick but it felt rather clinical and not a simple passing from one state to the next.

I do get the impression that doctors now withhold sufficient pain mediation (particularly opiates) for fear that they could be implicated in assisted suicide. There was a step change in this following the Shipman murders but it seems to have gone from protecting patients to actually not providing suitable care.

This article by Rachael Stirling regarding the death of her mother, Diana Rigg, is also worth a read.


My wifes father was diagnosed with alzheimers in the mid-late 1990’s,about a year before i met him.He was 59 at the time.Within 12 months of meeting him it was very clear that the alzheimers had completely taken him.His family cared for him for the next 12 years until his death at the age of 72.
My wife has always spoken about alzheimers being hereditary.Since her father was diagnosed in her early 20,s she has done so much to change her diet,exercise,takes vitamins and does the things reccommended to hopefully keep herself from developing this or at least slow it down.
Seeing everything that happened to her father and not wanting to live that life,my wife has told me on many occassions that she doesn’t want to be remembered in that way if she were to get this disease.
She has told me that we are to either put her in a home and let someone else do all that comes with looking after someone who is no longer present or if the option of assisted dying/euthanasia is available then she plans on using that option.
Fingers crossed none of this ever happens,but in order to know what someone wants we need to start by having the conversation before we get sick or develop certain diseases.


In an ideal world, we should strive for a society where nobody wants or needs to commit suicide.

We do not live in that world. We love in the world where the 16 year old cousin of a friend at work found his dad’s body hanging in the bedroom a few months ago.

He had stage four lung cancer and had decided he wanted to end it instead of going through the shit-show that was facing him.

I’m not sure anyone would be able to convince me that this is a better result than if he’d had the option of a dignified and professional pathway to take.

It would all have to be heavily regulated and criteria specific. The main thing being to protect vulnerable people from being exploited by their families.

Personally speaking, I don’t think it should even just be restricted to the terminally ill. At least hypothetically.
Obviously, it shouldn’t be promoted or encouraged, and in every case there should have to be a process, not just walk in off the street…I mean months of conversation, counselling, discussion with family where appropriate.
Suicide certainly isn’t the answer for young people who are bullied or have depression or some other mental health issue, they need help, and if this process existed then that could be a pathway for getting that help.

100s of people in the UK attempt suicide on a weekly basis. If there was a legal and painless pathway to it, I’m sure the majority of these people would at least try that pathway first and hopefully there would be enough in place at first in order to help these people realise that they don’t actually want to die, they just need help to change.

And for those left who are of sound mind but just genuinely don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t see how or why anybody has the authority to decide that it shouldn’t be allowed anyway. The natural end point of body autonomy, is being able to decide if you want to end your life.

That’s all a whole other minefield In terms of a UK branch of Dignitas - then yes, absolutely.


I found myself in the unfortunate position of having to do some research into this earlier this year. Here in France there has been a years’ long debate which was initiated by President Macron in Sept 22 with the aim of having a possible evolution of the law by the end of 2023. Whether we are still on course for a resolution I don’t know.

As it stands euthanasia is illegal but what is permitted , under stringent conditions , is deep sedation (being put to sleep basically) at end of life. It sounds quite humane and merciful in theory but in practice I’ve read testaments that describe it as anything but.

Like I said , I had to look at the possibilities for someone terminally ill , who upon discovering the bad news was adamant that she didn’t want to go through the hell of chemotherapy. Euthanasia is legal in the three neighbouring countries of Belgium , Switzerland and Spain. Belgium was the most practicable for us and I identified three doctors who would consider French citizens.

As mentioned in the Diana Rigg article , the process is long and arduous and involves several in person consultations before a decision is taken. To make things even more precarious there is a , not unspoken , resentment among Belgian doctors at what they see as the French state effectively absolving itself from responsibility to its citizens and basically allowing other EU countries to do its dirty work. Hence the current debate.

She underwent chemotherapy in the summer , at the urging of her husband who quite understandably was willing to grasp at any straw offered. It was completely useless and she suffered terribly. And we all wonder if in fact the treatment , particularly the initial biopsy (liver) hadn’t in fact hurried the disease along. So now she’s at the end and we are waiting for her to access some palliative care which will presumably precede the aforementioned deep sedation.

I can’t help thinking she was right all along. They should have just left the thing alone , and once it became latter stage then give her the opportunity to bring the curtain down herself.

Hopefully the French govt. takes the right decision soon. Sadly it will come too late for her.


I’m fairly certain I recall my mother telling me that my granny had been given a dose of diamorphine which she didn’t wake up from, that was in 1996.
My granny was in hospital with severe dementia and recurring mouth cancer and was very unlikely to leave hospital regardless.

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We’ve had two deaths in the family in the last two weeks - been a lovely build up to xmas this year in our home.

Wife’s Aunty had a massive stroke about 2.5 weeks ago, in her 80s. Docs were there trying everything, but in her half paralysed state she kept pulling all the tubes etc out as she was sick of it all. Took pretty much 2 weeks for her to slowly pass once docs stopped doing things to keep her alive. Horrible for her sisters (inc my MIL) having to spend every day in hosp watching her slowly die, and meanwhile take up a bed at the hospital acute stroke ward for all that time.

My own Aunty’s been battling Parkinson’s for a couple of years, but in the last 4-5 months she couldn’t eat, speak or move around, was tube fed, and what little she could say was always along the same lines - when will it end etc etc. She’s at peace now having passed on Sunday, and fortunately was at home surrounded by loves ones rather than stuck in a hospital.

Notwithstanding the immense legal minefield already mentioned above, I would be supportive, particularly having gone through the last couple of weeks.


Sorry you’ve had to go through this. it’s terrible.

there was a case of a woman her named Sue Rodriguez, who suffered from ALS and took the question of medically-assisted suicide all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1991. This was the same year that my mother was diagnosed with ALS. They had the same specialist at Vancouver General, fella by the name of Dr Andrew Eisen who was a leader in research on this particular disease and was partially funded by UBC.

Whereas Mrs Rodriguez was unsuccessful in her quest to control her own fate in the courts, she was able to find a local doctor who was sympathetic and discharged her own life 3 yrs later, with the support of a local MP who protected the identity of the doctor.

it took until 2106 for the Canadian Government to make the changes necessary to allow residents here to control their fate when faced with a terminal illness

My mother has a standing DNR with her family doctor and on file at the local hospital. But, she has stated that when she’s ready to go she’ll make that decision with my dad. She goes in for an angiogram today as she had a heart attack in October.

All I can say is that I’m incredibly thankful that somehow my mother was able to live another 30+ yrs past diagnosis. I don’t know if any of the experimental treatments that Dr Eisen tested on her actually did work, but for her to get this much time with us (and, one other lady who was treated at the same time) does speak volumes for his work.


Not only health related issues , I think people who have lived a long happy life deserve the right to choose when to pass.

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I don’t disagree with this concept, however that avenue of thought opens up a whole other realm of possible abuse of the system to end someone’s life in an unnatural way.

This is why it took so long for the Supreme Court to legalize it in the first place, because there are people in this world who would use that mechanism for personal gains or nefarious intent. this is why they want to restrict it for certain instances only.

The others will have to visit Kevorkian


The answer is yes, it should be allowed.
There are requirements for strict criteria etc, but as medicine develops and life expectancy imcreases, the need for opting out of suffering is essential.


Perhaps in exceptional cases. But suffering is an essential part of the human condition and I would hate to see a situation where end of life via euthanasia is routinely promoted as an alternative to aged care once that person could no longer self care.


It already is. I’d argue that Western Society is predicated on it. Not in the sense of having suicide centers everywhere, but we offer and promote myriad ways for people to kill themselves, slowly or quickly. Next question.

I don’t think that anymore is suggesting routine promotion?

But as an option, it should be available

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Esther Rantzen has discussed this in an interview with the Mirror:

I think again that this highlights my misgivings of places like Dignitas which she describes as a “rather unappealing place”. Ideally people choosing to end their life on their own terms should be able to do it at home or another place of their choosing.

I still find the whole idea a moral and legal minefield where the ghost of Harold Shipman looms long.


In my mind, I think the only workable solution would be on a case by case basis where 2 seperate and indepndant figures, 1 with a strong medical background and 1 with a legal background who have no connection to the person making the application or any person that stands to have any sort of beneficiary to review the case…

But that opens up issues in itself, as what happens if someone makes the selected panel, but is extremely religious and has strong views about suicide being a sin so keeps rejecting any application they are involved with?

And just to even draw up the initial boundaries. Only people with terminal conditions for example. Then what are the terminal conditions that will be allowed? All? Or just some? only cancer stage 4 or stage 3 or as long you have any sort of cancer? And like with the way the current society is heading, once you start moving even in a small step, you open yourself up to further challenges. We have been talking about medical conditions relating to physical afflictions like cancer or say total paralysis etc. What if someone comes challenging about mental conditions that the person feel he or she just do not want to live this way anyway? What moral authority does the government or committee have then to reject or accept those?

Its always nice to want to give everyone every single option and choice but its not as easy always to just say, nah you want it? you have it. Rules and laws are not always nice and maybe even unfair to certain groups of people, but without them, there will be anarchy.

That anarchy already exists in the case of termination of your own life.
The levels of suicide in contemporary society are reflective of people wanting “out”.
Seperate argument, but the point is, if people want to end their lives they do so.
We need to seriously tackle the causes of suicide however.

In the case of terminal illness, I would suggest two consultant reports that constitute a diagnosis that there is no hope for treatment to cure the person. No legal people involved.

A trained and dedicated counsellor or mental health practitioner should interview the petson and determination made on those reports.

I hope I never face this, but I will make a choice irrespective of what the law states.

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