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In 19th century Britain, a person who committed suicide would have a stake driven through their heart before being unceremoniously buried at a road side. You'd think we'd have progressed since then, and we have. Suicide is no longer the felo de se crime it used to be, but in the case of assisted dying our laws remain woefully archaic.
There exist people, fully competent, who place their life on a scale and find death outweighing life. For them, death is a good thing - something to look forward to and even strive for. We've seen it time and time again in the news. This is such an alien concept for some that they seem to refuse to accept it, but denial does nothing to help address the issue.
The circumstances in which someone chooses to end their life are always desperately sad. But they are made sadder still by the challenges the legal system presents. As a result there are deaths behind closed doors, or individuals have no alternative but to refuse food and water. Those who can travel to a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland face fears their loved ones might be prosecuted. And what does it say about Britain that we outsource our death? It has been ten years now since the first British person ended their life with Dignitas.
There are legitimate concerns about assisted dying, that vulnerable people could be coerced and that it is a slippery slope to name a few. I don't think any of them represent insurmountable issues. Other countries have successfully implemented assisted dying policies.
Pharmacists would likely be a crucial safeguard in any assisted dying process. As the suppliers of the elixirs of death* we'd have to be. No doubt the right to conscientious objection would exist. We should seek to be a vocal voice in the assisted dying debate.
It's easy to think about the issue in the abstract, as if it's an interesting ethical conundrum that affects other people. But that person I mentioned who places their life on a scale, it could be you. You chose how you lived your life, don't you think you should be free to choose how you end it?
*Dignitas uses 15 grams of sodium pentobarbital, a short acting barbiturate, in 100ml of water. Dignitas states "only very few pharmacies can supply it readily". Metoclopramide is given 30 minutes prior to ingestion to prevent vomiting. The individual falls asleep before respiratory arrest causes death.