ASSISTED DYING?

Please don’t write me off because my New Year’s resolution to post a blog a week hasn’t even seen out January.. I have been helpless. My ADSL line has been down all week which rendered me completely hysterical. I am obviously addicted to the internet. I hurled abuse at whichever luckless employee answered the phone at Telkom so it was very humiliating when one of them pitched up this morning – a Sunday, no less – to find our new handset plugged into the wrong slot…

Anyway, back to blogging. I was diverted from the ADSL crisis by a friend’s birthday tea. I sat next to woman who told me about her ninety-year old sister’s recent death in Holland.  She’d been suffering with incurable cancer but that wasn’t the cause of her death. A doctor had come to the family home and administered a lethal injection – a release that both she and her family had chosen.

It would be different if she’d had Alzheimer’s. For a start, she could have been three decades younger. My research for Below Luck Level showed that it was perfectly feasible for the mother of my heroine to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 59. I’m not a doctor so I’m not sure about the degree of distress suffered by such a patient. I don’t think even the doctors are sure. But I am sure about the degree of distress for the carers. I empathise with anyone who has to watch helplessly as their loved one disintegrates daily. Not overnight. It’s more insidious than that; a slow erosion of traits integral to the person you’re watching.

I don’t think i could bear it. That’s why I flew my heroine to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. But even there, nothing’s cut and dried . I spoke to Professor Sean Davison who is spearheading the campaign for Dignity SA to legalise assisted dying in South Africa. The bill he plans to introduce to parliament later this year won’t provide an outlet for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. The chances of legalising assisted dying in South Africa without informed consent from the patient are zero. And patients suffering from any form of dementia can’t give that. My heroine admits that her mother couldn’t choose between tea or coffee, let alone life or death…

It’s not the same everywhere. Belgium’s euthanasia laws recently allowed 45 year-old deaf twins to receive a lethal injection when they learned that their sight was also failing. The courts agreed that their lives would be unbearable if they were unable to see the only person in the world with whom they could communicate. Belgian law is being amended to include children and Alzheimer’s patients with suffering that cannot be alleviated.

I know what my choice would be in those circumstances. I just have to hope that crime and corruption aren’t the only reasons that might make me think of emigrating in the future.

 

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