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  • granny_tude
    WOSSNAME -- AUGUST 2009 -- PART 2 OF 5 (continued) ... oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ====Part 2 -- DEATH AND DIGNITY, CONTINUED, AND
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 25 4:04 PM
      WOSSNAME -- AUGUST 2009 -- PART 2 OF 5 (continued)





      But, of course, important points are being made in this debate.
      Currently, people say they are worried about the possibility of old
      people being 'urged' by greedy relatives into taking an early death.

      If we cannot come up with a means of identifying this, I would be
      very surprised.

      In any case, in my experience it is pretty impossible to get an
      elderly person to do something they do not wish to do. They tend to
      know their own mind like the back of their hand, and quite probably
      would object to this being questioned.

      There needs to be, for the safety of all concerned, some kind of
      gentle tribunal, to make certain that requests for assisted death
      are bona fide and not perhaps due to gentle persuasion.

      It is the sort of thing, in my opinion, coroners could handle well.
      All the ones I have met have been former lawyers with much
      experience of the world and of the ways of human nature, people with
      wisdom, in fact, and that means middle-aged at the very least, and
      old enough to have some grasp of the world's realities.

      I have no way of knowing whether any of them would wish to be
      involved; this is breaking new ground and we won't know unless we

      In my early journalistic years, I watched such men deal with the
      deaths of thalidomide babies and the results of terrible accidents
      with calm and compassion. If their successors are as caring in their
      deliberations, I feel this may go some way to meeting the objections
      that people have.

      And I would suggest, too, that Social Services be kept well away
      from any such arrangement. I don't think they would have much to

      In this country we have rather lost faith in the wisdom of ordinary
      people, among whom my father was a shining example. And it is
      ordinary people, ultimately, who must make such decisions.

      There are those who will object that the care industry can cope.
      Even if we accept that they are coping now, which most of us will
      take on trust, in the coming decades they certainly will not be able
      to without a major reordering of our society.

      The numbers tell us this. We already have a situation where elderly
      people are being cared for at home by people who themselves are of
      pensionable age. The healthcare system will become messy, and the
      NHS will struggle to cope.

      There are care homes, of course, and they are subject to inspection,
      and we must take it on trust that the inspection system has teeth,
      but would you know how to choose one? Would you know what questions
      to ask?

      Would you know, if you suffer from Alzheimer's disease or are
      representing someone who is, whether the place you would be choosing
      resorts to 'peg feeding'?

      Peg feeding is the forcible feeding of patients who refuse food. I
      found out about this only recently, and I'm afraid it has entirely
      coloured my views.

      These are, after all, innocent people who are on the road to death,
      and yet someone thinks it is right to subject them to this degrading
      and painful business.

      The Alzheimer's Society says peg feeding is 'not best practice', a
      rather diplomatic statement.

      People there that I trust tell me the main problem with the
      treatment of acute Alzheimer's cases is not a lack of care and
      goodwill as such, but insufficient numbers of people who are skilled
      in the special needs of the terminally-ill Alzheimer's patient.

      I am certain no one sets out to be cruel, but our treatment of the
      elderly ill seems to have no philosophy to it.

      As a society, we should establish whether we have a policy of 'life
      at any cost'. Apparently there is already such a thing as an
      official 'quality of life index': I don't know whether the fact that
      we have one frightens me more than the possibility that we don't.

      In the first book of my Discworld series, published more than 26
      years ago, I introduced Death as a character; there was nothing
      particularly new about this -- death has featured in art and
      literature since medieval times, and for centuries we have had a
      fascination with the Grim Reaper.

      But the Death of the Discworld is a little more unusual. He has
      become popular - after all, as he patiently explains, it is not he
      who kills. Guns and knives and starvation kill; Death turns up
      afterwards, to reassure the puzzled arrivals as they begin their

      He is kind; after all, he is an angel. And he is fascinated with us,
      in the way in which we make our little lives so complicated, and our
      strivings. So am I.

      Within a year or two, I started to get letters about Death. They
      came from people in hospices, and from their relatives and from
      bereaved individuals, and from young children in leukaemia wards,
      and the parents of boys who had crashed their motorbikes.

      I recall one letter where the writer said the books were of great
      help to his mother when she was in a hospice. Frequently, the
      bereaved asked to be allowed to quote some part of the Discworld
      books in a memorial service.

      They all tried to say, in some way, 'thank you', and until I got
      used to it, the arrival of one of these letters would move me
      sufficiently to give up writing for the day.

      The bravest person I've ever met was a young boy going through
      massive amounts of treatment for a very rare, complex and unpleasant
      disease. I last saw him at a Discworld convention, where he chose to
      take part in a game as an assassin. He died not long afterwards, and
      I wish I had his fortitude and sense of style.

      I would like to think my refusal to go into care towards the end of
      my life might free up the resources for people such as him.

      Let me make this very clear: I do not believe there is any such
      thing as a 'duty to die'; we should treasure great age as the
      tangible presence of the past, and honour it as such.

      I know that last September Baroness Warnock was quoted, or possibly
      misquoted, as saying the very elderly sick had a 'duty to die', and
      I have seen people profess to fear that the existence of a
      formalised approach to assisted dying could lead to it somehow
      becoming part of national health policy.

      I very much doubt this could be the case. We are a democracy and no
      democratic government is going to get anywhere with a policy of
      compulsory or even recommended euthanasia. If we were ever to end up
      with such a government, we would be in so much trouble that the
      problem would become the least of our worries.

      But neither do I believe in a duty to suffer the worst ravages of
      terminal illness.

      As an author, I've always tended to be known only to a circle of
      people -- quite a large one, I must admit -- who read books. I was
      not prepared for what happened after I 'came out' about having
      Alzheimer's in December 2007, and appeared on television.

      People would stop me in the street to tell me their mother had it,
      or their father had it. Sometimes, it's both parents, and I look
      into their eyes and I see a flash of fear.

      In London the other day, a beefy man grabbed my arm, smiled at me
      and said, 'Thanks a lot for what you're doing, my mum died from it,'
      and disappeared into the crowd.

      And, of course, there have been the vast numbers of letters and
      emails, some of which, I'm ashamed to say, will perhaps never be

      People do fear, and not because fear is whipped up, but because
      they've recalled an unpleasant death in their family history.

      Sometimes I find myself involved in strange conversations, because I
      am an amiable-looking person who people think they know and,
      importantly, I am not an authority figure -- quite the reverse.

      I have met Alzheimer's sufferers who are hoping that another illness
      takes them away first. Little old ladies confide in me, saying:
      'I've been saving up my pills for the end, dear.'

      What they are doing, in fact, is buying themselves a feeling of
      control. I have met retired nurses who have made their own
      provisions for the future with rather more knowledgeable

      From personal experience, I believe the recent poll reflects the
      views of the people in this country. They don't dread death; it's
      what happens beforehand that worries them.

      Life is easy and cheap to make. But the things we add to it, such as
      pride, self-respect and human dignity, are worthy of preservation,
      too, and these can be lost in a fetish for life at any cost.

      I believe that if the burden gets too great, those who wish to
      should be allowed to be shown the door.

      In my case, in the fullness of time, I hope it will be the one to
      the garden under an English sky. Or, if wet, the library.

      Note: The complete text of the letter can be found here under the
      article itself:

      "Sir Terry says that 'right-to-die' campaigners trying to change the
      law on suicide are acting with 'furious sanity'. He calls for the
      creation of special tribunals run by coroners to establish that
      terminally ill patients who request assisted deaths are acting
      voluntarily... Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's
      Society, said more people should consider registering a living will
      or 'Lasting Power of Attorney'. He said: 'Terry, like many of us,
      wants dignity at the end of his life. For people with dementia this
      can be made possible by good quality end-of-life care.'..."


      Also, a selection of other reports:

      Respected science fiction author Cory Doctorow lauds Pterry's letter
      and decision on BoingBoing, a favoured website in the IT geek

      "Who could say that is bad? Where is the evil here? ... (Note: it
      takes something damned important to get me to link to the vile Daily
      Mail. This qualifies.)"


      Columnist Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror:

      "Anyone who has watched someone they love die of a terminal disease
      will likely agree with Terry. At the end many lives narrow down to
      morphine, pain, humiliation, sadness and suffering..."


      The Telegraph:
      "Sir Terry Pratchett, the author and Alzheimer's sufferer, has
      suggested that tribunals of coroners should be set up to decide if
      terminally ill people can..." [finish quotation]


      ...and a reasonably open-minded take on this from some Roundworld

      "Pratchett said he did not believe legal assisted suicide would lead
      to involuntary euthanasia of helpless patients..."


      Cheltenham First Post:

      "A recent Populus poll showed that more than three-quarters of
      respondents were in favour of the right to suicide for the
      terminally ill..."


      This is Local London:

      "Speaking on Radio Five Live on Monday morning, Sir Terry, who was
      diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007, said he hopes that one
      day someone will help him to die. The author told host Nicky
      Campbell: 'I know my own mind and all I'm asking is to have power of
      attorney over my older self. The people who are going for early
      deaths seem to be frighteningly sane.'..."


      Salisbury Journal:

      "Sir Terry, best known for his Discworld fantasy books, asked
      society to establish whether it should have a policy of life at any




      An audio interview with Pterry by Dr Chris Smith at last month's
      Darwin Festival:

      "I don't think he cherished the thought of atheism or what he was
      possibly doing to people's belief, and I think that's fairly clear
      in some of his writing..."



      End of Part 2 -- continued on Part 3 of 5.
      If you did not get all five parts, write: interact@...
      Copyright (c) 2009 by Klatchian Foreign Legion
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