Death and Dignity

The View from Here: Opinions on a Life with Multiple Sclerosis

Author's note: I must warn that I am quite passionate about the topic of today’s blog post. I suspect that there are a lot of passions on the topic and it may be the most difficult I’ll tackle in our pages.  I expect and invite many comments. I must insist, however, that your comments be respectful of other people who comment.  We can disagree without being disagreeable. Nearly four months have passed since we lost our sister to MS, Marie Fleming, after her long battle to end her life. I have wanted to address the subject of death with dignity since, but wanted to wait a respectful time before opening what I can see as a very difficult conversation. This month’s report by the Irish Constitutional Convention was the key that fitted the lock for me to open it today. In their “Template for the Future”, the members of the Convention stated that the right to die is a top priority for continued constitutional conversation; once again punting this important decision into some murky, middle-distant future. Irish law went only part way to helping people who consider end of life issues private when they decriminalised suicide in 1993. For many people with advanced disability from MS (and other debilitating diseases) however, the final act of self-mercy can be unattainable to, due to physical restrictions. Such was the case for Marie.   In fact, so harsh are the Irish interpretation of their own laws that Marie’s partner, Tom Curran, was threatened with major, criminal charges if he went so far as to book her flight to Switzerland - where Marie could be helped to fulfil her wishes. Please remember that MS will not progress this far for the vast majority of us living with the disease. It will, however, get “that bad” for some and death from complications of MS are a possibility as well. To not acknowledge the fact – I believe – dishonours all of us living with the varying stages of MS. There are many reasons that one can argue against self-determined death with dignity for themselves (I don’t use the term “assisted suicide”. It is a misnomer as suicide is, by definition, a self-act). The position of denying someone else the right – based on any grounds – is appalling and self-righteous in my opinion. One religious organisation even posted the following quote as part of their argument against death with dignity legislation: “Suffering is a grace-filled opportunity to participate in the Passion of Jesus Christ.  Euthanasia selfishly steals that opportunity.” That’s all well and good for the person who wants to believe that. I, however, do not believe that any person has the right to legislate how I may or may not choose to exit this life if, with my loving wife, I decide that I’ve had enough. There are arguments as to the “slippery slope” and that people who are too difficult (or expensive) to care for could be slated for an early death against their wishes. I find this attack on a person’s rights a feeble flank as there are countries which have appropriate laws and regulations to ensure against this abuse – and they work. None of us want to think about our MS getting so bad that we would see no longer living as a better option than continuing to fight. The fact is that for some people that is the course of this disease. Why then would the Irish Government not take up the cause of those who wish to end their lives, like Marie Fleming, in the comfort of our own bed and surrounded with those whom we love. You don’t have to agree with me, you don’t have to consider it an option for yourself. I believe opposing the right to death with dignity is a slap in the face of others living with a more different course of the same disease. I call on the Irish Government to take up the urging of the Constitutional Convention and pass meaningful legislation for us and for our families. Wishing you and your family the best of health. CheersTrevis You can also follow us via our Life With MS Facebook page, on Twitter and don’t forget to check out