Assisted Dying and Disability


There is a new case going to the Court soon with a disabled person asking the Court to allow them to take their own life with the assistance of a medical professional, which is currently criminal in the UK.


But should it be?


If I want to I can take my own life, it is not criminal.  What I cannot do is: aid, abet, counsel or procure mine or anyone else’s death.  So if I choose to take my own life, it has to be my settled decision and the act of doing so must be mine and only mine.


Is this discriminatory?


I can choose to take my life in a number of ways, but what if I wasn’t?  What if I had a physical health impairment that meant that I couldn’t do that?  It would mean that there is another part of society that I was unable to participate in.  The Equality Act 2010 says that where there is someone with a disability who needs access to something, then “reasonable adjustments” should be made to allow that person to do what they want / need.


The taking of a life is a huge, which most of society wishes wasn’t necessary, but in the depths of despair it can seem the only way out and is a difficult final action to take.  Many people have suicidal thoughts, not all of them act on it, it is part of depression.


The Mental Capacity Act has 5 principles and they are aimed at empowering the individual, including principle 3: No person is to be assumed to lack capacity because they make an unwise choice.  Because we all make what others would think is unwise choices from time to time!  So, the unwise choice to take one’s own life is not in itself sufficient to indicate that that person lacks mental capacity to make decisions, it might just be their physical impairment.


And who wants to be that person who assists?  That is a very difficult role to take on, since the entire subject is difficult and socially challenging to deal with!


Terry Pratchett took this argument to the Court a few years ago in 2011, the arguments will keep coming and the Courts will keep being faced with this issue.


I’m always sad when I hear that someone has taken their own life or wants to, my wish for them is that this desire and its underlying causes weren’t an issue in their life, but life isn’t always like that.  I wish all parties facing this issue the best.