Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mercy Killing or Murder In The U.K.?

Seventy-on year old Ray Gosling admitted to smothering his lover after learning that he was dying of AIDS and no relief could be found for his pain.

Transcript:

I I I talked about the circumstances, he was in pain.  He got AIDS; there was no cure.  It was in the early days and there was no relief of the pain.  And I went though those things with the doctors and when he first got AIDS we had a pact.  He was my lover, he was not my partner. He was my bit on the side but we had a wonderful wonderful love affair and we said if it comes to that, I don’t want to live.  You, I rely on you Ray to finish it.  And he was in terrible, terrible, terrible pain and I finished him.

Gosling originally made this startling confession the “BBC's Inside Out programme.”  Police have now launched an investigation with the help of the BBC to determine whether charges will be laid.

According to the BBC, Dr Peter Saunders, from Care Not Killing, said:

Mr Gosling's account sounded like a case "not of assisted suicide but of intentional killing or murder".

He said: "It's rather bizarre this was filmed more than two months ago and the BBC has been sitting on it and hasn't informed the police and the case hasn't been investigated.

"At the moment all we have is Ray's word there was a pact and it wasn't clear from his description whether his lover even wanted to be killed or asked to be.

"It's not up to us as the viewing public, on the basis of one very brief selective testimony, to draw conclusions on what might be a very complex case.

"That's why it's so important all these cases be fully investigated so the true facts can come out."

Goslings confession caused a major furor with many advocating on both sides of the issue.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, British Medical Association (BMA) head of sciences and ethics, said the association had a firm position.

"We are opposed to the legalisation of assisted dying.

"Assisted dying is illegal in the UK, so doctors are not permitted to help terminally ill competent adults to die," she said.

The BMA said it believed the ongoing improvement in palliative care allowed patients to die with dignity and physician-assisted suicide and voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia should not be made legal in the UK.

As medical technology advances the ability to extend life is increasing.  The question has now become, is the point of medical intervention to prolong life because we can, or should we factor into the equation the quality of life?  We can also ask whether life belongs to the individual or the state.  If life belongs to the individual, should they not have the right to end it if they so desire?

There are so many complex issues and questions surrounding assisted suicide. Even if we assert that a person should be able to choose, can we always be certain at the moment of death that they have not changed their minds?  There have also been many cases of able bodied caretakers euthanizing disabled people because their lives are routinely devalued.  Who decides when a quality of life becomes unacceptable?

Really, on this issue I have far more questions than I do answers.  I know that I don’t want to linger, suffering in unimaginable pain.  I also know that I can trust my loved ones to make the decision for me if I am incapable because we have talked about what I want; however, not everyone is in the same position.

In terms of Gossling, I don’t think we can tell from the short snippets of video that are available, whether or not this is a case of assisted suicide or murder?  What he has done by his public confession is create a global conversation regarding the right to die.  In that vein, I ask you to share your thoughts on this issue.  Please be mindful that this is a contentious issue and so keep all responses respectful.