The right to die?

I have recently read about Noel Conway, aged 67, and the legal fight he has began for the right to die. Noel has motor neurone disease is a condition which over time damages parts of the nervous system, leading to muscle weakness and often visible wasting. Neurodegeneration can affect the persons ability to: grip, walk, swallow, breath and speak. Motor neurone disease is an incurable disease and  a severely life-shortening condition for most people. Most people only live between three and ten years longer once they develop the condition.

Noel has quoted: “I have a right to determine how and when I die and I want to do so when I have a degree of dignity remaining to me,” and he said: “I want to live and die in my own country. The current law here condemns people like me to unimaginable suffering – I’m heading on a slow, slippery slope to hell.”

Euthanasia is still illegal in the U.K, and there are many arguments which support this such as: the religious argument that only God has the right to end life; the argument that legalising euthanasia could lead to significant unintended changes in our healthcare system which we may regret in the fututre; the medical ethics argument in which is it fair for us to ask healthcare professionals to carry out euthanasia or assist in a suicide which would go against fundamental medical ethics; there are other treatments available such as palliative care and hospices and that it may expose vulnerable people to pressure to end their lives.

On the contrary there are many arguments which do support euthanasia such as: the ethical argument that people should have freedom of choice, including the right to control their own body and life and that the state should not create laws that prevent people being able to choose when and how they die, which is the argument Noel Conway is using; and the pragmatic argument where passive euthanasia such as refusing treatment which may ultimately help save someone’s life is legal, and so euthanasia should be.

There are still many contrasting views on this topic, but I will leave you with this questions… Should our current law that euthanasia is illegal be changed? Should Noel Conway be subjected to more suffering? Or should he be allowed help to end it all?

-Zaina Alam