What’s your position on assisted dying? Do you believe that the end of life should need to be a long-drawn-out suffering for those who are terminally ill, at the end of their life?
Neither does Sir Patrick Stewart.
In a statement released in 2015, he explained why:
“I had always been a supporter of assisted dying, but I became a campaigner after a horrifying event…
Her mind was clearly made up – she was mentally competent, and her death was inevitable. She knew she wanted to end it and the pain she must have endured I can’t imagine.”
In his statement, he explains the number of friends and friends of friends he’s seen struggle with the end of life and searching for a way to meet their end with dignity. He explains how all of this is part of his campaign, with friends, for Dignity in Dying, and relates his own experiences campaigning on its behalf as the Assisted Dying Bill was debated in the British House of Lords.
How, he asks, “can we, as a civilised society, allow this to happen? Currently we force people to suffer against their wishes, and use the force of the law to threaten those who would help their family and friends if asked to assist in a death.”
As he argues quite eloquently, assisted dying should be a fundamental right, a right to quality of life—as well as a way to say goodbye with dignity, on our own terms.
As he notes, in places where assisted dying is legal, such as in Oregon, it works quite well: “In fact, the Oregon Hospice Association stated that the law had not negatively affected palliative care ten years after it came into force.”
As he goes on to note, the majority of British citizens support assisted dying if the following several conditions are met: The patient is terminally ill, mentally competent and cognizant, and it is there wish to die with dignity.
And the fight for dying with dignity goes on. Even in the places where bills have successfully passed, there are often amendments to the bill that make it impractical, or difficult for those most in need of the provisions to get the okay. Consider, for instance, the recently passed bill in Victoria, where overly optimistic doctor’s predictions regarding remaining life expectancy may keep many patients from qualifying.
So, as Sir Patrick Stewart asks, listen to what Bob Cole and others have had to say. His story, and the story of so many others like him, should give us the courage to help others fight for the right to die with dignity.