e-mail gill@willtolive.co.uk

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16 August 2005

How I found that life is worth living

Sir - I am sad that Kelly Taylor (News, August 13) feels that her life is not worth living, even after ending her attempt to die through starvation.

Having been in a similar situation myself, I know the limits to the system. After being diagnosed with a progressive disability, and going downhill fast, I thought of ending my life.

But there were psychological services available to people with my diagnosis in my area and I had an extensive course of counselling, which did help. However, what really helped was getting a higher level of care, and being encouraged to carry on with my writing, art and acting.

Britain's anti-euthanasia laws should not be blamed for Mrs Taylor's predicament. If euthanasia were legalised, it would enable other people - mostly doctors and legal professionals - to decide who lives and dies. For people whose care costs more than the health and social services want to pay, and those judged to be too old, disabled or sick for the fit and able majority to justify their lives continuing, this would be a dangerous situation.

Suicide is not illegal here. Suicidal tendencies and unsuccessful attempts will often be treated as a cry for help or as a symptom of depression.

Unfortunately there aren't many people who can answer Mrs Taylor's cry for help. Although other therapies skirt around the edges, there are no "life therapists" in existence yet, who could help her find what she is good at doing and find the best ways for her to do it and, when necessary, act as a facilitator.

People like me can tell her that there are ways of making life good, even when limited abilities get in the way. I can't paint any more, but I can still produce works of art on my computer. I can't walk any more, but I can still dance with my wheelchair. I could never write, because of a disability that I was born with, but I got a degree using dictation and a typewriter. I now use a computer to campaign, run a theatre company and write prose and poetry.

Having said all of that, I know the anguish that real thoughts of suicide bring. This is an agony that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I wish Mrs Taylor all the luck in the world and hope she finds ways to bring real fulfilment to her life.

I long for the time when those advocating assisted dying use their money, energy and intellect to make life better for those who have been dealt a rum deal, rather than plotting so-called easy ways to take life away.

Gill Gerhardi, Aylesbury, Bucks