Assisted suicide, or "assisted dying", as it is sometimes called, is a topic which is regarded in our culture to be taboo- and at the very least, controversial.
To give a brief overview, assisted suicide is when someone, almost always with a terminal or progressive disease, is given help to die peacefully. This is usually done by drinking a very strong drug, which first puts you to sleep, and then kills you by cutting off oxygen supply, and then stopping your heart.
Currently, assisting someone to die is illegal in the United Kingdom, and those Brits who wish to choose when to die have to travel to Switzerland in order to do so. A clinic there, called Dignitas, is the only hope terminally ill people have of choosing how and when they die. Although it is not the only country in the world to offer assisted suicide legally, Switzerland is the only one which allows people from other countries to kill themselves.
Terry Pratchett, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, is an excellent fantasy author, but is also a campaigner for the legalisation of assisted suicide in the UK. Although not his first public statement of his stance on the issue, his documentary "Choosing to Die", aired last week on the BBC, was a very powerful and heartfelt look at the people affected by our country's laws.
It seems to me as though people whose lives are terribly, profoundly affected by terminal diseases should be allowed to choose when they die, peacefully, and with dignity, in their own country. I can understand the issues behind it- one would have to be absolutely sure that they were acting only upon their own wishes, and were of sound mind. However, I think that those who have made the decision to die should be allowed that privelege, and shouldn't have to travel abroad to get it. This only has a more damaging and stressful effect on their own families.
I also by no means think that everybody with a terminal or degenerative disease should be made to die, or even encouraged to do so. All other options should be examined and considered before making that ultimate choice. For me, the religious question doesn't even factor into it. How can any compassionate God condemn people for commiting suicide- or helping someone to do so- when they feel their lives are physically unlivable? Any such God would be one not worth worshipping, for me.
As far as I'm concerned? I don't think I could ever commit suicide, under any circumstances. I think I would always be waiting for a last-minute cure, right to the end. However, I have never been- and hope I never am- in a position where I need to make that decision. Neither have the law-makers in Britain; or other countries yet to legalise assisted dying. Therefore, I believe that such an option should be left open, without those who wish to die having to worry about whether their loved ones will be jailed when they are gone, or whether they will have to die in an unfamiliar place where they find little comfort in the surroundings.
I know it's controversial, and I know that there are compelling arguments on both sides. But how do you feel? Comment, to let me know.