Death: the final frontier
By guest blogger BOB FERGUSON
It’s somewhere that all of us, sooner or later, will have to boldly go. Trouble is, we’re not allowed to do it at a time of our choosing. And that really bugs me.
Almost 60 years ago, I encountered a young man (in the back of a London ambulance, if you’re interested) who was unconscious, having just taken an overdose. That he had written his suicide note on the flyleaf of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment – I swear this is true – could well have been an ironic reference to the fact that, at that time, it was still a criminal offence in this country. Have we really moved on since then?
Women have long had the right – within a specified time frame – to exercise control over their bodies by arranging to have abortions; or, in the case of the morning-after pill, to conduct preemptive DIY. So that’s OK. I can write a “living will” instructing medics, and anyone else who might feel compelled to intervene, how to behave in certain prescribed circumstances. In doing so, I am effectively laying the groundwork for ending my own life. That, too, is OK. But I can’t get the necessary assistance, legally, to do the job myself.
I use the first person singular in order to make clear that I have no wish to impose my belief – or where religious faith is concerned, lack of it – on anyone else. I respect those who have different views: I just ask that they shouldn’t expect me to go along with them. Many of these are, as far as I’m concerned, debates for another day.
It is evident that, due to the compromises involved in the parliamentary process, I will have to negotiate a number of hurdles before I can exercise the final act. Probably a doctor to certify that I am actually terminally ill and likely to die within a prescribed number of weeks, someone to declare that I am “sane”, perhaps a High Court judge to bring his/her formidable intellect to bear on the matter of legal precedent . . . and so it will drag on. It may be, of course, that I am not terminally ill – I could have decided that my life does not have sufficient quality – while as for the legal adjudication, my decision should not be subject to precedent because, quite simply, I am unique. It is a profoundly personal decision that I alone can take. So, please, just butt out and let me do my own thing.
Football fans will be familiar with the phenomenon known as “Fergie time”, when the legendary Sir Alex sought to inveigle an elastic period at the end of matches to favour his own team. Let’s call this – a reduction rather than an extension of time – the Fergie dispensation. I am willing – right now – to add a codicil to my living will making it explicit. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Not the most uplifting topic. But it’s something that I’d really like to get settled in advance.
The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.