2015 Annual SOARS Lecture

When is a Life Complete? What Next?

Phil Cheatle
recently appointed Coordinator of SOARS (now MDMD)

Michael Irwin stood down as SOARS Coordinator at the End of August 2015. Phil, who had previously been the Associate Coordinator, was selected to take over as the new Coordinator by the Executive Committee, with Michael’s endorsement. Phil had led the SOARS discussion around the topic of a Completed Life and was the principle author of the resulting SOARS position paper on When is a Life Complete?

Phil’s talk started by discussing the origins of the Completed Life concept in the ideas of Huib Drion in The Netherlands, and the work that has been done within SOARS over the past year to formulate our own definition. By using conceptual graphs of ‘quality of life’ vs ‘age’ Phil explored some of the complexities people face when contemplating their own completed life decisions. The ideas were illustrated with examples of people’s deaths which had recently been in the news such as Gill Pharoah.

He also mentioned his mother as an example of someone who felt her life was complete and who wanted to die, but had no means of bringing this about. [Joan Cheatle subsequently died of ‘frailty in old age’]

The talk went on to suggest some ways that SOARS supporters can make use of the Completed Life concept in their conversations with others. It ended by proposing the concept of an “Extended Advance Decision” whereby at the time or writing a valid Advance Decision, someone formally sets out their wish for the option of a medically assisted suicide if at some point in the future, their quality of life irreversibly falls below the minimum quality they are prepared to accept. Such a statement would go a long way towards allaying any reasonable concerns that a “vulnerable elderly person” was being pressured into requesting a medically assisted suicide, when that eventually becomes a legal option in the UK.

Slides from the lecture are available here.