Pratchett and the assisted suicide question.

I have such mixed feelings about Pratchett. On the one hand I have a sneaking sense that his wish for suicide is the wish of a well man who has never tried being anything else, and who derives his sense of personal value (to the universe) from what he does, rather than what he is. I think that one learns some really fascinating and valuable lessons about oneself when what one does stops being possible. None of those lessons are frightening or difficult, once you’re in them. They’re terrifying from the outside, though.

On the other hand it’s such an individual matter that there’s no point forming an opinion about any case but one’s own.

For my own part, I wish that assisted suicide were legal (with appropriate medical assistance and appropriate legal protections in place, similar to the protections already used in the European countries where assisted suicide is legal). I feel that the requirement for people to be well enough to travel abroad for their planned death means inevitably that British people have little choice but to kill themselves much earlier than they would probably choose to, if foreign travel were not involved. It is one thing to see someone clearly at death’s door making this difficult choice, and a much harder thing to see someone who is still physically quite hale and hearty, forced into it out of fear they may not be capable of it if they wait.

In the European countries where assisted suicide is legal there has thus far been no rush to euthanize the disabled. There haven’t been queues of old people, pressured into early death by grasping relatives – the checks in place are too effective to permit it. So we know it’s not beyond the wit of man to legislate effectively to protect people. It is, as these things always are, a question of will rather than capacity.

I think it is time we trusted people to make their own decisions.

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