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Law on suicide...and assisted suicide

If you take a browse near the bottom of the left-hand column you will see that i intend to take part in the next Bloggers Unite awareness day, the subject of which is Suicide. Most people will have a story to tell of suicide, i will be sharing mine on the 10th September 2011 along with lots of other Bloggers Unite bloggers.

Diane Pretty "dies in the way she always feared"
Suicide is always a tragic event. Some people will attempt it as a cry for help, and in modern society that cry for help will not go unanswered. But 50 years ago, suicide was illegal. Imagine feeling so helpless that the only way you can reach out to others is by attempting to take your own life...imagine now that when you get "caught" attempting suicide you find yourself being prosecuted for the crime of attempted self murder.

The law eventually saw sense, and the criminal offense of suicide was abolished some 50 years ago. These days when an attempted suicide ends up in a&e they will probably find themselves treated in the same manner that a drunk would...a&e staff don't particularly care for any self inflicted condition, no matter what it is. Despite this, the state does recognise its duty of care for these people, and they will be assessed by a Psych doctor.

This is where the old law against suicide rears its ugly head again. In modern Britain you won't find yourself before a court, but you will find yourself locked away. To the patient, there isn't much of a difference between prison and a mental health unit. However, as is so often the case with modern society, this is the least worst option. Future generations will look back on the way we treat our mentally ill in the same way we look back at the old law of suicide.

Debbie Purdy...won the right to know if her
husband would be prosecuted
It could be argued that we are on the brink of another social breakthrough in the care of the mentally ill, that of the legalising of doctor assisted suicide. In the same way that society recognised our right to take our own lives some 50 years ago, society is now on the brink of recognising our right to do so in a painless, shameless way.

Some would like to see the rights evolve once more. No longer will suicide be something that has to be done under the cover of darkness, or in a secluded locked room. No longer will notes have to be the only way of saying goodbye. No longer will families be left wondering why, and no longer will innocent passers by be haunted by images of death.

In future, some would hope, we would be able to talk over our decision with family, and sort out our affairs. We would be able to share our last moments with our family gathered around us, in a dignified and painless manner. We would be able to be remembered as a strong person who took control of their life, and ensured that the memories of their last moments are not unpleasant for anyone.

Or...we could end up with a society that doesn't tollerate "imperfection", or "weakness"...and that those people who need our support the most will be burdened with the shame of "not having done the honorable thing".

I don't know which side i am on. I suspect the only people who truly understand is the Purdys and Prettys of this world.