Death: How Far Can You Organise Your Own?
No one could have failed to have been touched and saddened by the case of Noel Conway.
He is the motor neurone sufferer whose case is awaiting hearing by the High Court. He is seeking a declaration that section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961 is an interference with his right under the Human Rights Act 1998 to respect for his private life by preventing his doctors from assisting his death without fear of prosecution.
He is seeking a change in the law which would allow terminally ill adults to make their own decisions about ending their lives. It is easy to dismiss this as being something which we hope will never affect us. However, it highlights the need for us all to make preparations for when we may be in such a predicament. Even if Noel Conway was allowed to give such a direction to his doctors to bring an end to his life, he would need to have the necessary mental capacity to be able to give those instructions.
If he was so ill as to not know what was best for him, his instructions would not be followed.
This applies to all of us if we become unwell and cannot make decisions about our own health and welfare. This is particularly important in connection with the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment. Doctors are permitted to withdraw such treatment under direction from the patient if given in advance.
This can be dealt with by making a Lasting Power of Attorney for your health and welfare.
You can appoint an Attorney who you trust to make such important decisions for you when you are unable to do so. Otherwise, these decisions would be made for you by health and social care professionals.
Would you not prefer such decisions to be made by your closest family members?
Similarly, decisions about where you live, who cares for you, dietary matters, cultural issues.
Remember also that this does not only apply to those who may be terminally ill. All of us are very likely at some point to become so unwell that we cannot make decisions for ourselves even if it is just through old age and infirmity.
All of us should make sure that we prepared for such unhappy circumstances.
Please get in touch if you would like some help and advise.