Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Choosing to Die - Terry Pratchett

I'm feeling overwhelmed having just watched this documentary on iPlayer.

I cannot get the image of Peter Smedley and Andrew Colgan  out of my mind, all the crueler for the latter given his young age. And then there were their nearest and dearest , Peter's wife and Andrew's mother -  stoic to the last.

What struck me most was the surreal and yet at the same time the ordinariness of it. A total juxtaposition which left me reeling with emotion.  A cup of tea , a choice of meticulously wrapped neapolitan chocolates with which to mollify the bitter taste of the poison.

Reading the reviews I see that the usual 'against most religions' argument has been wheeled out again as a reason to condemn the taking of one's own life, as if it is anyone's business other than your own.

This might well have been called Whose Life is it Anyway . Who on earth has the right to judge whether it is right or proper for a human to choose whether and when to die and the manner of their own death.

All the sadder for this last trembling act  to have to be played out on foreign land in a foreign language in a small, blue, rather impersonal house, ghettoised onto an industrial estate for fear of upsetting nearby residents, with a couple of kindly and compassionate 'hosts' ready with the Kleenex.

I was touched by the irony of the yellow and black chevron safety tape adhered to the front door step , a nod to health and safety , as if the potential of a grazed knee caused by a stumble upon entering can even begin to compare to what is about to happen inside.

I can barely begin to imagine how this must feel for those in the precarious position of finding themselves trapped in a body or mind that has deteriorated to the extent that 'normal' life, whatever that is, no longer seems possible.

The documentary was compassionately edited , sensitively filmed and possibly the most haunting piece of television I have ever watched. One can only hope that the debate will now be widened to allow those with a real say in the matter to decide for themselves. Those whose lives are theirs to relinquish without the overbearing voice of moral jurors breathing down their neck ( as if they were even entitled to have an opinion ) bearing judgement on the actions of a desperate and dying , yet dignified soul .

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