I've tried to stay more or less out of this one, but today brought the news that the law on assisted suicide has been 'clarified', although the level of that clarification is slightly unclear and seems to consist mainly of a list of factors that will be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to prosecute.
Firstly, let's remember we're talking about assisted suicide, assisting and enabling people to kill themselves. We are not talking about euthanasia, which is actually doing the killing. Big difference.
Secondly, let me state for the record that I am NOT suicidal and have no intentions to kill myself or enlist others to do the job for me. I have reasons to get up in the morning and am looking forward to tomorrow, next week, next year and beyond.
However, I can understand why some people might want to kill themselves, and how it is possible that they can feel this way with a mindset of 'calm and rational' as opposed to 'agitated and desperate'.
I can also understand that on a practical level it is a difficult thing to actually physically do and succeed with if you are impaired in some way. You need to be sure that your chosen method will be effective, and that you will not be thwarted by a lack of physical strength, or an inability to get hold of the necessary materials, or by a carer calling for an ambulance instead of allowing you to get on with it. A failed suicide attempt is in many ways worse than a successful one, as you have to continue to live with not only the factors which made you feel suicidal, but also the shame and frustration of failure, not to mention any additional impairments caused by the attempt.
So I understand that, since you'll need help, you want to be sure that those close to you won't be prosecuted for allowing and enabling your suicide - although I draw the line at anyone else actually carrying out the act.
But. Any kind of blanket law saying "this is legal, that is not legal" wouldn't work. It would be open to too much abuse. Which is why, although today's clarification seems at first glance to just be a fudge, I quite like the way they've done it.
Partly because there are so many different situations, so many factors, so many shades of grey. There needs to still be case-by-case consideration.
But mostly because it forces people to take the risk of prosecution, and therefore forces them to think really, really carefully about whether it is a risk worth taking.
You see, it's a big and serious undertaking, to help somebody to end their life - or indeed to ask for that help. It should never be a quick decision. It should not be taken lightly.
If, as an incurably ill and suicidal person, you know that there is a risk that your loved ones may be prosecuted for helping you, you'll think long and hard before ever bringing it up. If, as a loved one, you know there's a risk you may be prosecuted, you'll think long and hard before agreeing to take that risk. If, despite the risk, you both go ahead anyway, then it demonstrates how important you think the issue is.
If the suicidal person and their helper look at today's guidelines and, for example, rewrite the Will to ensure that the assistant does not stand to financially gain from the death (and remember that in many cases the assistant is the next of kin and most likely to gain, that's a big something to give up) then that also helps to demonstrate that they have both seriously considered the issue, the outcome, and what is most important.
I think forcing this kind of consideration helps.
I still don't like the idea and I still don't think it's one I'd go for myself, but the way they've gone about the clarification makes a sort of sense to me.