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Vicki Woods reveals that she and her husband have argued about which of them should assist the other to commit suicide, and which should "face Plod afterwards" should the occasion arise, maintaining: "We have the right to live as we want - why not the right to die as we want?" ('If I decide to end it all, I'll do it my way', Telegraph, June 11, 2011). But the fact is we don't have the unlimited right to live as we want, and this includes the taking of our own lives and the lives of others. What we do affects other people, and should our society, as she appears to desire, accept the 'right' of people to kill themselves or their close relatives, such 'private' decisions will affect other people. Not only will we create an atmosphere under which vulnerable people will be driven to commit suicide because they feel a burden on their closest relatives, but there will be cases where the closest relatives will be placed under pressure to accept someone's decision to commit suicide even though they disagree, and will be made to feel guilty for prolonging the life of someone who wishes to exercise a private choice instead of considering care options. It is well known that suicide is 'catching' and that the bereaved will suffer deep emotional trauma and may themselves decide to take their own lives - indeed, some suicide campaigners have advocated that bereaved relatives should also be helped to commit suicide. And if the 'right' to suicide should be made legal, all sorts of 'services' will no doubt spring up to faciliate and profit from suicide - and why not? What appears at first sight to be a private matter is in fact a matter of great public interest; that is why we have laws against it. The disastrous effects of our recent 'softening up' of the law is demonstrated by Vicki Woods' call for assisted suicide "at a time of your own choosing. By someone you know and love. In a nice place like your own home, instead of that creepy Swiss set-up, Dignitas." I venture to suggest that it would be even more creepy should one's nearest and dearest turn from caring to killing, either because do not wish to care or because they are made to feel uncaring by not acquiescing in the decision. Vicki Woods regrets the fact that she returned her late mother's supply of morphine to the clinic: "I should have kept them in the top cupboard, against the day"; the future is unpredictable but one thing can be predicted with a certain amount of confidence: if the law changes as she would wish, and she should change her mind about being killed, it may be too late for regrets.
Ann Farmer (Mrs)
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