By Tim Wardle
Assisted dying campaigner and My Death, My Decision supporter.
This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week. I am here to talk about why my death matters to me. None of the following relates to deaths arising from war or natural disasters, solely to the end of life in the natural course of events.
In this country, we have had a very Victorian attitude to death, one of life’s two inevitabilities, whereby the subject is not ‘nice’ to be talked about – if I talk about it, it will happen to me.
Thankfully, this is beginning to change. More and more people are coming to believe that, whether or not they believe in an afterlife, death should be celebrated and that the timing and manner of one’s death should be a matter of choice.
Some context is necessary here. I am nearing my 85th birthday and have been diagnosed with inoperable kidney cancer following a 10-year battle with bladder, prostate and lung cancer. I have lost my maternal grandfather, mother and two sisters to cancer and was present with one of my sisters at her passing. However, I have long held the view that there were circumstances that might warrant assisted dying. Watching the pain and loss of dignity my sister suffered firmly entrenched this belief in my heart. With my current diagnosis, I know what awaits me.
I am in awe of those who work in the palliative care sector for end-of-life patients, but this does not, ultimately, end the pain or prevent the loss of dignity of the recipient. Thus, as a species, we need the choice to determine our ending. That is not to say that any legislation permitting assisted dying should be mandatory for all; simply that each individual should have the opportunity to choose. Having made that choice, the means should then become available without hesitation.
Legislation is long overdue in the UK to provide for assisted dying. There are now many models around the world that could be used to cherry-pick the best practices for adoption here. One thing I am wholeheartedly against is any legislation that restricts the right of assisted dying to those diagnosed with only six months to live. Each case should be determined on its merits and the expressed view of the individual. Legislation should also prevent a third party from raising objection to an assisted death where proper protocol has been followed by the individual.
Quality of life, not quantity of life, should be the predominant factor in deciding if and when life should end. With our pets, we determine on their behalf when they should die if the quality of their lives becomes intolerable – and are praised for our kindness in doing so. How is it then that as thinking beings, able to express our wishes, we are not afforded the same?
I wish to die at a time and place of my choosing before losing control of my speech and bodily functions, and with my loved ones around me, and I do not believe that any authority has the right to deny me that choice.
You can read more from Tim in The Mirror.