Last week Diane Purdy won her appeal to have the DPP set out clearly whether it would prosecute in regard to anyone helping a terminal patient travel abroad to commit suicide. Which has to be a good thing doesn't it? Ms Purdy is suffering from MS, a condition that means she may be physically unable, when and if the time comes, she wishes to end her own life. She will need to travel abroad to do this where assisted suicide is legal. And naturally she wants her partner to be able to accompany her without fear of him being prosecuted when he returns to the UK.
Being terminally ill myself, and having been in such excruciating pain last week, made me think long and hard about all the implications surrounding assisted suicide. It is illegal in this country of course - but what exactly is the definition of 'assisting'?
If I decided I wanted to end my life and Martin passed me the bottle of pills with which to do it would he be guilty of it? Even if I was the one who actually took them? Or would he be guilty of 'assisiting' by merely sitting there and watching and not doing anything to stop me? It's a bit of a mine field isn't it and the law certainly needs clarifying.
There are the fears that too much clarification and the situation may arsie where dear old Aunt Mabel, terminally ill but living in a lovely (but very expensive) nursing home may be taken on an unexpected 'holiday' to Switzerland and not return.
Or that the terminally ill patient may feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to end their life early and save their relatives all the stress and strain and grief of watching them die slowly.
I believe we, the terminally ill, have a fundamental right to end our lives when they have become unbearable - but it must always be OUR decision. And the circumstances surrounding that decision will be different for each person naturally. And can change from time to time. Last week I had started to wonder just how much pain I could tolerate before I began to plan such a course of action. And yet this week I'm almost back to my 'normal' self.
However, one thing that did cross my mind in regard to those of us with a terminal illness who are not ready to end our lives yet - indeed we wish to extend them with the help of the new cancer drugs that are becoming available. I wonder how NICE would appraise any proposal on assisted suicide? It surely would be more cost effective than any life extending drug. Will NICE be approving assisted suicide as a treatment 'option' in the future?