e-mail gill@willtolive.co.uk

Gill Gerhardi   

J. Bercow MP
House of Commons
15th July 04
Hi John,

It was good seeing you on Friday. Thank you for your time.

Below is something I didn't say on Friday but I am now sure that it is right.

Because the Mental Capacity Bill sanctions death by omission it will indirectly cause the sanctioning of death by commission, i.e. things that deliberately cause death like lethal injection. Euthanasia will therefore be the result.

Dying by starvation and dehydration is lengthy and painful and is horrible to watch. I had forgotten until last night but I have got into real trouble with friends who knew my position on euthanasia because they had had to watch a close relative die from lack of food and drink. They said it would have been much kinder to let their fathers, mothers etc. die quickly in a pain free way and without people with my views it would have been legal. I dismissed that argument totally by saying that good palliative care would have been able ameliorate all that suffering. Yet even a hospice didn't relieve the suffering. Palliative care badly missed the mark.

I totally agree that it makes no sense to make people who are already dying suffer more in order to cut down the length of suffering from whatever they were dying of to start with. Withholding and withdrawing food and liquid should be outlawed totally.

In 1995 Kate Adamson was wrongly diagnosed as being in a Persistent Vegetative State in the USA. She was given abdominal surgery without proper anaesthesia and then had food and water withdrawn. She was fully aware of what was happening, just totally paralysed and unable to communicate. She managed with her husband's help to convince doctors that she was aware and slowly began to communicate again so treatment was reinstated.

Talking to a journalist later, she described being deprived of food and water as "far worse" than experiencing the pain of abdominal surgery, saying:

'The agony of going without food was a constant pain that lasted not several hours like my operation did, but several days. You have to endure the physical pain and on top of that you have to endure the emotional pain. Your whole body cries out, "Feed me. I am alive and a person, don't let me die, for God's Sake! Somebody feed me."

I craved anything to drink. Anything. I obsessively visualized drinking from a huge bottle of orange Gatorade. And I hate orange Gatorade. I did receive lemon flavored mouth swabs to alleviate dryness but they did nothing to slack my desperate thirst.'

The more people die through omission, the larger the number of people will be subjected to the horrors of loved ones dying without food or water and the louder the clamour will grow for a more humane way to finish lives that have in a doctor's judgement already ended. The Mental Capacity Bill despite supposed safeguards puts doctors in overall control. No other professionals are able to monitor what the medical profession does. Doctors police themselves and even after Shipman there are no adequate safeguards in place. It takes years and years for a doctor to be found to be wrong. Unregulated euthanasia will be an almost natural outcome of the Mental Capacity Bill.

Once it is acceptable, euthanasia may also provide a welcome answer for both state and citizen. It will alleviate the intolerable burden to the exchequer of caring for an aged population and give people made to feel useless - anyone over 65? - a welcome way out. After all nobody wants to be made to feel a burden do they? If they haven't got a viable pension they won't have the means for more than subsistence living anyway which won't worth having, will it?

To step back from a head long rush into a science fact hell we need to stop administering death as a medicine and plough much more money into research and training into palliative care to stop suffering. However the first thing has to be to scrap the Mental Capacity Bill

Thanks once again John for listening.

Let me know what you think

Best wishes

Gill Gerhardi