In the Annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC, this Monday, Sir Terry Pratchett offered a perhaps controversial view on medically assisted suicide in case of a terminal illness. Since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, he is openly furthering the debate about assisted suicide in Great Britain. He is proposing to be used as a test case for a tribunal that would be made up of specialists in palliative care, and hopefully in ethics as well. Most important criterion to be on the tribunal is to be over 45 years of age, in order to hopefully having gained a little wisdom and compassion. Both are needed to decide over life and death. The more important underlying idea of such a tribunal and assisted suicide in general is however not just compassion for someone who suffers from a debilitating illness, but that person’s right to choose. The debate about the topic seems to be merely about the laws that are so far forbidding assisted suicide but might allow it in the future under certain special terms, so that those who assist are not longer in danger of prosecution. Or it is fuelled by the Church which necessarily holds the view that it is killing and therefore to be condemned. But as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, it should be about the ill person’s right to Death. In our fear of dying, we seem to have forgotten that it is a natural process that is part of life. Plato believed that death would free the soul, so that it could reach perfection. And even a determinist cannot claim that we don’t have the choice to decide over our life, even if in that view we have no sway over the events in our life. The right to Death should be as fundamental as the right to life!?
Back to Basics in Bioethics: Reconciling Patient Autonomy with Physician Responsibility
By Antonio Casado da Rocha, University of the Basque Country
Vol.3, December 2008
Legal and Moral Responsibility
By Antony Duff, University of Stirling
Vol.4, December 2009