Dying Well – by Edward Leigh MP

portrait-edwardleigh3Parliament has once again this week been discussing “assisted dying”, i.e. euthanasia.

I don’t want to go through all the arguments, just give a couple of personal experiences.

I met recently with a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s. I was looking after him in a hospital ward for a short time. I can’t say where. Or who he was. True, I could do nothing for him. Everything I told him he forgot within a couple of minutes. But he did so much for me. He seemed so angelic, at peace, even holy.

I was profoundly moved. The simplest, most intimate tasks to help him seemed so important, and he said one thing that has stuck with me: “What I can’t stand is cruelty.” I suppose supporters of euthanasia would argue his life was fulfilling no purpose for himself. I doubt that, but even if that is true, it was fulfilling something very important for his carers and his family.

My second experience was with my mother. By the last three months she had no physical quality of life whatsoever. She could not even move in her bed, let alone out of it. She was in pain. If euthanasia was available, as she only thought of others, she might have said: “I am only a burden, now is the time to end it.” But what a tragedy that would have been, because she read and talked to the last, and died peacefully and within a day, of pneumonia, with her family around her. There were no agonising decisions to take. It just happened.

Of course every experience is different, but the very old have so much to teach us. Everyone accepts that the most poignant moment of all the Remembrance Day parades was when 112-year-old Henry Allington tried and failed to stand up to lay his wreath.

Gaudium etsi laboriosum (“Joy in spite of hardship”).


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