e-mail gill@willtolive.co.uk

disability NOW August 2005

Don't ignore palliative care

I am a member of the minority that Moira West (DN, July) vilified for holding up the majority's wish to choose to die early.

I dread the day euthanasia is legalised. If you are repeatedly told you are too old, disabled or sick it will be easy to believe it. If you understand that you are not wanted anymore and not able to cope on your own, dying early will seem the best way out.

The law can be drafted to tryto stop that sort of thing happening, but there is no way safeguards can work. In Oregon, USA, doctors are not supposed to issue a lethal prescription if they suspect coercion, but there are no guidelines.

Increased levels of care and equipment allow people to carry on contributing to society for longer than most think. Many don't know what help is available and the authorities don't broadcast what they canprovide. Dying in a slow way is something everyone fears but for most it is manageable. Palliative care can help with over 90 per cent of pain.

If the choice of an easy way out was given it would mean that those of us at the bottom of society's ladder could be in danger of losing months and years of happy fulfilled life partly because letting us die is a cheaper option than the cost of care.

Gill Gerhardi, Buckinghamshire

disability NOW July 2005

My right to a peaceful death

Reading Chris Channon's letter on the right to die case (DN, May) made me consider my own thoughts.

There will come a time when my disability has progressed to such a stage that I no longer wish to live. Before then I will make a living will and intend to have a tattoo ("Do not resuscitate") on my forehead and over my heart so there will be no misunderstanding overmy intentions. Once I no longer have a good quality of life there will be no point in torturing myself by continuing to live.

I am not interested in people who think that life at all costs is the only solution. We are all born and all die so I cannot understand why, with good reason, the law will not allow a peaceful and assured death. Constant neuropathic pain isvirtually untreatable; I know, having tried numerous drugs. The only way this can be treated is by making the individual unaware of what is going on.

Informed choice should be available and the minority should have no sway over the majority, which is how things seem to be with this issue and many others.

Moira West, by email

disability NOW May 2005

No dignity in US right to die case

The recent American right-to-die case of the late Terri Schiavo, who had been in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for the past 15 years, has disturbed me greatly.

Mrs Schiavo's husband wanted her to die "with dignity", saying this is what she would have wanted. Her parents wanted her to be kept alive and were willing to continue care.

To make her more "comfortable", Terri was puton a morphine drip. Although this may have alleviated pain, it would also have made her incapable of meaningful response.

If someone is prepared to look after someone in a PVS, they should be allowed to do so. But if a person is to die, it must be as humane as possible. Dying of hunger and/or thirst is a slow and horrible way to go.

When a murderer is put to death by lethal injection it takesno more than 15 minutes for death to occur, yet it takes a disabled person two weeks or more to slowly starve to death.

As a disabled person, my greatest fear is being in a similar situation; not being able to respond and then being legally "bumped off". It is illegal to treat an animal in the same way.

Chris Channon MBE,

More debate at http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/assisteddying/