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Monday, June 05, 2006


A Time To Die

En route to work this morning I listened to Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio Ulster. As I got to the top of the Glensahne he was interviewing Roy Bennet about the assisted suicide of his son Paul. Regardless of ones' views on this subject I defy anyone not to be moved by Mr Bennets' recollection of his sons' last days suffering from motor neuron disease.

I listened firmly in the camp of those who support a change in the law in this area. Then Nolan interviewed Nigel Dodds MP who is a strong opponent of Lord Joffes' Bill. Something very rare happened as I left Dungiven- a well crafted and passionate argument almost changed my mind. Regardless of any religious objections to assisted suicide or physician assisted suicide Nigel rationally put forward a case to protect the vunerable and maintain a stable doctor/ patient relationship. Nigels' points were all the more powerful given the role he had as a father of a desperately ill child.

Opposition to the Joffe Bill is a truly cross-community issue in Northern Ireland. I canvassed for two DUP candidates at the last Westminster election and was surprised by how many people raised the issue on the door. In Enniskillen, Arlene Foster was approached by a convinced nationalist who wished to thank her party for the stand it had taken at Westminster on the issue.

As I said I almost changed my mind. Listening to how motor neuron disease had reduced Paul Bennet to a point where he had found the
"last 18 months of his [life] intolerable, as he was in constant pain and had been terrified of choking to death as he was unable to swallow"
I thought what would I do in that situation, faced with loosing the power to communicate and living frozen in a dying body. Dear reader, send me to Switzerland.


I reaaly really difficult subject. I am very concerned about any notion of suucide being legalised.

I am thinking particularly of the ill who are made to feel a burden and are presurised into it. At the same time I sympatise with the terminally ill who have the prospect of total dependancey and perhaps pain towards the end. I may be being niave but I think that we don't support the hospice movements enough.

It also must be difficult to say the least if you are the next of kin to someone who is past being able to make decisions and you know their view and it is the opposite to yours.

those are exactly the points made by Nigel that made me pause for thought.

Perhaps the concept of a "living will" in addition to the current DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) tags placed on medical notes is the way to ensure the will of the dying person is respected.

I remember a moment during the last General Electiom campaign when an RC/nationalist voter made a point of greeting a crowd of canvassers for the DUP candidate to shake hands and show his apreciation for the DUP position (or at least the position of individuals DUP politicians) on the euthenasia question. Regardless of anyone's view of either the Union or euthanasia it wa a nice moment ;o)
pakman: "I thought what would I do in that situation, faced with losing the power to communicate and living frozen in a dying body"?

A question which faces all of us in the Ulster Unionist Party!

Seriously, though, I wrote a column about this very subject a couple of weeks ago; coming down in favour of a "living will" option which would be respected and acted upon. I don't fear death. I do fear being trapped in a lingering journey towards it.

Best wishes,


thanks for posting.

I hope you are well.

Regards, as ever.

where can anyone get hold uf your last newsletter article (I don't live in NI but I have heard about it)
I haven't searched for it Aileen, but have you tried Belfast Today? (The new look News Letter online)

Thanks but I've never been able to find anything in the online Newsletter since they changed the format.

I think it will be posted on Slugger either today or tomorrow.

And I've never been able to find anything on the News Letter site, either!

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