December 10, 2022

Assisted suicide campaigners conflicted about right to die for those not terminally ill

A leading assisted suicide campaigner, who chose to die in Switzerland despite having no terminal illness, has provoked debate between supporters and opponents of the right to die.

arthritis
A leading assisted suicide campaigner, who chose to die in Switzerland despite having no terminal illness, has provoked debate between supporters and opponents of the right to die. Nan Maitland, 84, who suffered from debilitating arthritis, travelled to Switzerland on March 1 to end her life. She said she didn’t want to suffer a “long period of decline, sometimes called ‘prolonged dwindling’, that so many people unfortunately experience before they die”. Two weeks before her death, Maitland wrote in a message: “For some time, my life has consisted of more pain than pleasure. I have a great feeling of relief that I will have no further need to struggle through each day.
 
She added: “I have had a wonderful life, and the great good fortune to die at a time of my choosing.” Maitland was a member of Friends at the End (Fate), a Scotland-based campaign group, and was also one of the founders, in 2009, of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (Soars), which campaigns for “elderly, mentally competent individuals” who suffer from non-terminal health problems to be given the right to choose.

Care Not Killing, an alliance that campaigns against assisted dying, said the case showed “a shifting of the goalposts” by pro-rights campaigners and would pressure vulnerable people to end their lives if they felt they were a burden. “It’s a very scary situation that not very severely disabled people could, at the drop of a hat, opt to kill themselves, and [Maitland’s case] shows a ramping-up by campaigners,” said a spokesman. “Many people have to live with arthritis. It does expose the lie that only people who are terminally ill will be affected by changes in the law.”

Dr Libby Wilson, a campaigner and medical adviser at Fate, said Maitland’s decision had been difficult for her family. “My fight is about choice and individual responsibility. We had it with contraception and abortion, and it’s logical now to say we should have choice in the way we want to die. I do draw the line. I wouldn’t encourage it for people with psychological illnesses, for example, acute depression in teenagers, who have to be helped. Nan was a very hospitable, sociable person and she loved her friends, but she was so exhausted.”

Dignity in Dying, which campaigns for legislative change on assisted dying, said it did not support assisted suicide for people without terminal conditions. A spokeswoman said: “We don’t think that you could faithfully have in law assistance for someone who wasn’t terminally ill. Then you’re making judgements about quality of life, not quality of death.” She said their work was to improve the experience of dying for those “where it was an inevitability”. ~ Guardian, Apr 3

Assisted suicide campaigners conflicted about right to die for those not terminally ill
Jared Yee
assisted suicide
suicide