On Wednesday, 1st June, I read in the Daily Telegraph that terminally ill patients are to be asked by their doctors how they want to die. The information would be put on the NHS database, and thus be available at the proper time. A barrister who specialises in this field has said that, properly signed and witnessed, it would be legally valid.
I am not surprised that campaigners against euthanasia are wary of this as a backdoor approach to electing suicide. That may be so, but I still favour the idea of writing instructions. The last words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, about to be executed by the Nazis, were “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life.” And it seems to me to sum up the Christian idea that death is the important transitional occasion in our personal history of salvation.
We may not all be lucky to die in a way or a place which allows for choice. But I would certainly want to consider under what circumstances I would or would not wish for resuscitation. How do I feel about the withdrawal of food and water? What about long term apparent brain death? Or coma? And most certainly I would want my carers to know that I wish for the Last Sacraments (though, having made my nine consecutive First Friday Communions as a boy I should be OK there!).
And just how frank would I want people to be with me? My feeling is that I would like an honest, even if unmerciful, warning of my prospects. But those around me might feel that it would be kinder to be optimistic. How am I going to solve that?
Or, for the purposes of this Blog, how are you going to solve that? I would be interested to hear whether people will just let things take their course, or would prefer to give guidance for their relatives or even doctors, who may feel professionally obliged to take a particular course in the absence of clearly stated wishes. What would your choices be?