Assisted dying: Do we have the right to decide?

Legalised suicide, assisted dying and whether or not we have the right to choose to die have been long debated issues within the United Kingdom over the past few years. As it stands, suicide and euthanasia (assisted suicide) are all illegal within the United Kingdom, with assisted suicide carrying a murder conviction and a potential jail sentence of 14 years.

However in February 2015 changes regarding assisted suicide changed in Canada, making it legal for the first time since 1993. This change to Canada’s law has sparked the desire for change in the US state of New York, with an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Washington state, Vermont and Oregon that have all legalised assisted dying for mentally competent patients. They can choose to end their lives if they so desire. 

The Deciding Debate

The debate about whether or not we as human beings living in the UK have the right to decide when to die and to have help in dying is that of a moral debate. Does the value of life in general supersede the right to die? As human beings we like to think of ourselves as moral and wholesome, and we convey this through our emotions and our actions. However, when it comes to human suffering through illness and dying we appear to have two massively contrasting views. 

Morality is always largely shown regarding animals and their suffering – pets are quite often put to sleep if we know they are in physical pain or that their standard of life has drastically reduced. However, when a human being suffers from a terminal illness and is locked within a body that is causing them pain and distress, we elliminate their right to decide whether or not they want to be alive. Why is it, that animals are taken mercy upon and laid to rest, whilst we make human beings suffer painful and often long lives despite their wish to die? 

Dying In Dignity

The campaign for Dying in Dignity is an organization that campaigns for the legalisation of assisted dying. They campaign in order for mentally competent, terminally ill patients to make the decision to end their lives should they so desire. Their campaign shows that 80% of people support the proposed change to the law and reject the unavoidable suffering that occurs without assisted dying. However, not only does their website highlight facts and supports but it also showcases a saddeningly high number of people’s stories who suffered against their wishes due to assisted dying being illegal. 

To me, the illegality of assisted dying is immoral and quite frankly inhumane. The laws to make assisted dying illegal were created and put in place in 1961 – a good 54 years ago. Society has changed and developed since then, illness and suffering are no longer a thing to keep quiet, forget about and hope that they’ll go away. It’s time that we stopped criminalising those who believe in assisted dying and give the voice back to those who are suffering. 

Not convinced? Maria Mynes looks at the other side of the debate in Opposing Assisted Suicide. Have your say on the debate in the comments section below.