The News Comment: The time has come to allow us to choose an assisted death

Linda McCaffrey
Linda McCaffrey

COMMENT: Time to end the scourge of fixed odds terminals

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There are few things more gut-wrenchingly distressing in life than watching a loved one waste away and die.

Sadly, it seems to be happening more frequently these days. Or perhaps, as traditional taboos are broken down, it’s just that we are more prepared to talk about it.

And a good thing too because, no matter how difficult or distressing, it’s a subject which should be debated.

Carley McCaffrey doesn’t just want to talk, she wants to shout angrily from the rooftops and has every right to do so.

She has just been a horrified spectator at her mother Linda’s agonisingly drawn-out death from late-stage cancer. Carley saw her previously vibrant mum degenerate on her sofa to five stones. So ill was she that she could not eat. Ice cubes and powdered energy drinks were all that kept her alive.

Now Carley has reopened the debate about the right for terminally-ill people whose lives are nearing an end to opt for an assisted death – in Britain, where it is currently illegal.

We believe Carley is quite justified in saying: ‘To be told you can’t have food any more, but only ice cubes, surely that’s torture?’

In Linda’s case, it was.

And she wanted to go to Dignitas in Switzerland to be helped to die. But she was too weak to travel.

Of course, each case must be treated on its highly individual merits and only after lengthy counselling with the patient and his or her medical team.

We are encouraged by the response from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which says end-of-life care should be tailored to each person’s needs.

But surely in a mature, highly-educated, 21st century democracy such as ours, we have reached the point where someone like Linda McCaffrey has the right to choose whether to live or die in her own country?