Sunday, 19 October 2008


I mentioned the other day that, even though I am useless when it comes to knowing what's going on in the news, I do occasionally come across a story that I become obsessed with. It's happened again.

After I got back my holidays, my attention was caught by a headline on the internet, and then after reading the story linked to it, I started to devour all I could about it. It made me cry a bit, but I've not been able to stop thinking of it since. It's one of those cases where nothing is black and white, it's all grey areas - in my view anyway. But all I can't even imagine how I would feel if I was in the situation.

Read here to see what I'm talking about. Or try putting the term "Daniel James" into the news section of google.

I never really gave the whole idea of euthanasia much thought, to be perfectly honest. It crops up in the news every once in a while, I know. And I'm sure we covered it once or twice back at school. But it's always something I associated with the elderly or the terminally ill.

I didn't realise it was possible to go to a clinic and actually be assisted with the process of killing oneself. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. In some ways, I think it's good that people have somewhere to go if they feel their only option is to die - if, for example, they are suffering from a degenerative disease and will ultimately lose their quality of life. But it scares me too and I'm not sure why.

Daniel James has come under some criticism for deciding that his life was no longer worth living now that he was paralysed from the chest down. In among the sympathy for his parents and for his own situation, there have been implications that he took the cowardly way out. That so many people have suffered similar injuries to him and have carried on all the same.

But everyone is different. We can't really put ourselves in his position, we can't know what we ourselves would do in his situation. Whether we could soldier on bravely through it, or whether all we would want is to end it.

If he had committed suicide, on his own, there would not have been this sort of outcry, this public interest. And the boy DID try ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS to commit suicide. But apparently the nature of his paralysis meant the only way he would have been able to do it himself was by starving himself to death. To him, going to this clinic in Switzerland seemed like his only option.

I'm not defending his actions, I don't necessarily agree with what he did. But he must have been desperate to go to this extreme. And it's done now. Hopefully he has found peace.

Should his parents be prosecuted for going along with their son's wishes? I don't think so. Once again, it's one of those things where you can't possibly know what you would do yourself unless put in that situation. They loved their son. They knew he wanted to die. They didn't want him to suffer, they wanted to protect him. It's them I think I feel the most sorry for. Because no parent wants to outlive their child, but I believe wholeheartedly they did what they did out of love. I'm sure that they have suffered more than enough already and my heart goes out to them.

But like I said, it's all a bit of a grey area. For example, I personally don't believe in abortion - not to do with my Catholic upbringing, there's a lot of stuff I don't agree with there. It's my own PERSONAL belief. I don't force it on people because while I myself couldn't do it, I understand that some people may feel it's their only option. But I want to put it in this context - why is it legal for someone to decide to get rid of an unborn kid, a living foetus that is already growing but doesn't have a say in whether it lives or dies . . . while someone who CHOOSES to die, someone in full control of their mind, who knows what they want and has thought it through - isn't allowed to make that decision??? Just a thought.

What do YOU think? Should someone have the right to choose to die if they want to?


  1. I think you hit on a lot of the big issues in this debate. I support the right to die, though I'm as certain as I can be that I wouldn't choose that for myself. My biggest concern is the family, but if this is a decision they've accepted, then I don't see why I or the government should interfere.

    Like abortion, though, I think it's a debate with good people on both sides.

  2. I'm a supporter of euthanasia rights. I believe if someone is terminally ill or suffering from a condition that robs them of quality of life, they should have every right to end that suffering. Who are the lawmakers to sit back and judge what is suffering and what isnt ? Only the individual can acertain how good or bad or easy or hard their own life is.

    I can say that if, for example, one of my family members were dying a slow, painful, lingering death and asked me if for assistance in helping them die with some dignity, i'd have to say yes....

  3. I agree with everything amy just said. I would hate to have to watch a member of my family go through the same misery.

    Tough situation for the loved ones though - a real dilemma.

  4. I think you're also right in saying nobody really knows until it comes down to it. I don't think I could, but I understand how others could. Well written post.

  5. I think it is a very tricky dilemma, some people do not have the liberty as we have the freedom to live with the choice, some people live withth fear of death every day. Life is so precious. we are given this life so it is our own consequences what we do with it. if we all could choose our death I bet we all would choose the way to go, it would be a pure luxury. I think in Daniels case he made the right decision for himself. We will never know until we are there.

    As for abortion I find it difficult because I think it is very delicate. There are so many different reasons why people do it and dont. I have witnessed close friends do it for various reason. One close friend being drugged and raped by a stranger at a bar. These are such delicate issues and I will never know what is right or wrong because it is life and death.
    Very good post, but really got me thinking. Cos I do think I understand why people the things they do, not because for their own sake but also they dont want other to suffer as well on their behalf.

  6. I had no idea about this awful story until I read the link that you posted. After reading the article and the rest of your post, my head is swirling with thoughts. I was utterly appalled at what this young man's family did, and allowed him to do. They agreed with him- yes, son, you should just give up and die. I think that's terrible. I understand the nature of his injuries and quality of life were terrible, but I think it's heartbreaking and shocking that his family went through with this. He needed mental help and emotional assistance. He needed something to help give him hope. His family disgusts me. I feel so strongly about this and I don't even know how to put it into words....

    And your last few sentances- so true and thought provoking. Why is it that people are allowed to kill unborn children but are not allowed to have someone help them take their own life? Silly, isn't it. For the record I don't believe in either practice. Per abortion- the only way I would somewhat agree with the notion is if the mother was literally in dire mortal danger and would definitely die if the baby was carried to term.

    Sorry for jumping all over morality, here. THis was a great thought provoking post.

  7. I don't see how anyone can think that things are SO BAD that the only thing to do is to want to die. People need to be more hopeful and positive, I KNOW it works to lift spirits. I just wish more people thought this way. Positive thinking is so powerful, and can get you through anything. I do think suicide/killing oneself is cowardly. Things could never be that bad--someone else always has it much worse and they struggle through it and become a stronger person in the end.

  8. Such a sad, sad story. It's hard, because reading that story, I feel as though it was his right to choose. Who are we to say he should have to take the courageous way out? It is his life, after all, and he obviously was not getting what he needed out of it.

    ... yet I'm a therapist, and my duty is to stop people from taking this option. It is my ethical obligation. I also deal with, and will deal with, people who really are wishing for this option for the wrong reasons, who will get better. I almost have to believe that to keep doing what I do.


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