Alex speaks out on assisted dying

Alex Cole-Hamilton, our Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western, wrote an article for the Edinburgh Evening News on Tuesday, giving his personal views on assisted dying.

It opens

We lost my father-in-law shortly before Easter. He passed in the comfort of his home surrounded by love and light and in the arms of his family. It was an end to aspire to. Such a passing is not afforded to everyone, however, and I grieve for those families who have seen their loved ones struggle in pain, indignity and distress for protracted periods before the end. Public policy change around end of life care remains one of the hottest political potatoes out there and to my mind we’re still not getting it right.

Alex feels passionately that

If we reach the limit of human endurance, if the pain goes beyond the grasp of palliative care; we should have the human right to say: “this far and no further” and be assisted, with proper safeguards to take such steps as necessary to quit this life in dignity.

He goes on to say

Now don’t get me wrong, the palliative care available to us is awesome. The people who dispense it are heaven sent; in the majority of situations it offers quiet relief and dignity at the end. I’m not advocating that we need to replace that – only that we add one, final tool to the arsenal of interventions available in those last stages. In the more permissive regions in the US and several countries in Europe where this is the norm, just having this option is a great comfort and is surprisingly seldom used, but it’s there if you need it.

You can read the full article here.

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4 Comments

  • This is a really beautifully-written article by Alex. It’s preaching to the converted in my case, but hopefully it will persuade some others.

  • William Fowler 6th Apr '18 - 9:30am

    Doctors sign up to save life at all cost, quite dangerous to change that but a lot to be said for ignoring the NHS and keeling over at the last moment,

  • >hopefully it will persuade some others

    Unlikely to change minds. I had to watch a close relative dying of cancer last year. It was dreadful. But at no time did I wish he would kill him himself to speed it up. I couldn’t have helped him to do so, nor would I expect anyone else to be willing to play an active part in doing so.

    ‘At least he’s not suffering now’ is empty consolation. It doesn’t actually make grief less awful.
    Anyone who has ever held a beloved, sick pet while a vet stuck the needle in: did you feel relieved, or guilty at watching someone kill them, at being complicit in killing a loved member of your family? And that’s ‘just’ an animal.

    As for dignity, that goes out of the window the minute you are incapable of looking after all your own needs. Spend time visiting any geriatric ward and tell me how much dignity there is for anyone hooked up to a catheter, or examined behind curtains that screen view but not what is being said.

    The key question on this topic is to ask yourself is: if the person you love most in the world was suffering, could you bring yourself to kill them? Because if they can’t kill themselves without help, ‘assisted dying’ is really just a way to distance yourself from the guilt of actually ‘pulling the trigger’.

  • Kay Kirkham 6th Apr '18 - 5:43pm

    No one seems to have taken into account the wishes of the dying person. A mentally competent adult with a terminal diagnosis might wish to choose the manner of their dying without having either to involve loved ones in what is currently illegal or traveling to Dignitas.

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