Anthony McIntyreon the right to an assisted death.

Lately I have been having a recurring dream. In it, I find myself trapped in the depths of locked-in syndrome. Death is the only future, the further away from it, the greater the torment and loss.  

For those not familiar with the death of life that manifests itself in the tortured existence of locked-in syndrome, the experience is described in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by the late French journalist, Jean-Dominique Bauby which he wrote in the blink of an eye, so to speak. From the moment I first learned of Bauby, I was horrified by his fate, an existence which was the total negation of human life. 

Dreams, often being fragmented incoherencies, lead to locked-in syndrome in my nocturnal odysseys taking on its own peculiar form, rooted in my imprisonment with some of the more sadistic screws  featuring in them. In the dream, locked-in syndrome is a particularly cruel punishment devised and imposed by a prison regime and is not the result of a stroke in the brain stem. It is an unnerving journey, the ultimate power disparity where I am on the outer limits of powerlessness, from which it is always a relief to escape. Nevertheless, the unease it gives rise to leaves a residual effect which is difficult to shake off for a day or two.

Not long after the latest, I contacted a close friend whom I first met in prison and informed him if I ever become trapped in locked-in syndrome he is to end my existence, rather than my life. I would no longer have a life at that stage for him to bring the curtain down upon. His response was:


This was like my childhood worst fear. I watched an old Vincent Price movie that involved a condition very similar to this. A person would appear to be dead by all known measurements but was actually in a deep coma. There is absolutely no life signs. All precautions were taken to provide escape routes from burial, all of which fail. That movie stayed with me for years as a horrible nightmare.

Kate Allat, one of the fortunate few to have come out of the condition, in her book Running Free described the experience as akin to being buried alive. It captures my friend’s childhood fear. He never said he would meet my request but he doesn't need to. I know he will step up to the plate if the situation requires it. I have told my family also about my wishes but, too frequently for comfort, loved ones are emotionally involved to the extent that they might not do what is right for me, opting to do what is right for them, hoping for that imaginary miracle or its secular equivalent.

Nor would I place my eggs in one basket. Others know what to do, even if they have to arrive with a pillow. These are the type of friends who would travel to Dignitas with me or with whom I would make the trip were either they or I to exercise our right to die at a time and in a way of our choosing once meaningful life has run out of road. I have no intention of circling the drain of life, fearful of taking the plunge. When it is my time to go, depart I shall with or without the approval of the law.

Yet, in 2021, I should not have to ask a friend to risk prosecution, possibly imprisonment, for doing the right thing. Anthony Grayling was on the money when he wrote in today's Sunday Times that “indeed it is astonishing to think that society can claim the right to deny help.” Yet, the refusal to help is what society often does.  

Reassuringly, in both parts of Ireland at present there is a head of steam building up to secure legislation that would permit assisted dying. Stoking the boiler are socialist parliamentarians Gerry Carroll and Gino Kenny. In the UK, a Dying with Dignity campaign is underway, with a bill already introduced by Baroness Meacher in the House Of Lords. Across Europe the practice is pushing back the entrenched barriers of redemptive suffering and other perverse forms of cruelty that masquerade as compassion and pro-life.  In the Australian state of Victoria legislation is in place which permits medically assisted dying. Despite the opposition, often religious, it has proven a humane success. The terminally ill, if they opt for it, are provided with a "black box" which they can open at a time of their choosing at home and ingest the contents. Loss of consciousness and a peaceful death quickly follow. Contrast that with hanging from an Irish tree because life is held to be sacred rather than precious.  

The current response to terminal illness is Palliative Care, even though it is known not to work in all cases, leading to people suffering horrendously agonising deaths. Assisted Dying is a humane attempt to answer the question that Palliative Care can not. 

So, if you are coming to see me on my death bed, bring a pillow, just to make me comfortable. 

 ⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Living A Life That Is Extinct

Anthony McIntyreon the right to an assisted death.

Lately I have been having a recurring dream. In it, I find myself trapped in the depths of locked-in syndrome. Death is the only future, the further away from it, the greater the torment and loss.  

For those not familiar with the death of life that manifests itself in the tortured existence of locked-in syndrome, the experience is described in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by the late French journalist, Jean-Dominique Bauby which he wrote in the blink of an eye, so to speak. From the moment I first learned of Bauby, I was horrified by his fate, an existence which was the total negation of human life. 

Dreams, often being fragmented incoherencies, lead to locked-in syndrome in my nocturnal odysseys taking on its own peculiar form, rooted in my imprisonment with some of the more sadistic screws  featuring in them. In the dream, locked-in syndrome is a particularly cruel punishment devised and imposed by a prison regime and is not the result of a stroke in the brain stem. It is an unnerving journey, the ultimate power disparity where I am on the outer limits of powerlessness, from which it is always a relief to escape. Nevertheless, the unease it gives rise to leaves a residual effect which is difficult to shake off for a day or two.

Not long after the latest, I contacted a close friend whom I first met in prison and informed him if I ever become trapped in locked-in syndrome he is to end my existence, rather than my life. I would no longer have a life at that stage for him to bring the curtain down upon. His response was:


This was like my childhood worst fear. I watched an old Vincent Price movie that involved a condition very similar to this. A person would appear to be dead by all known measurements but was actually in a deep coma. There is absolutely no life signs. All precautions were taken to provide escape routes from burial, all of which fail. That movie stayed with me for years as a horrible nightmare.

Kate Allat, one of the fortunate few to have come out of the condition, in her book Running Free described the experience as akin to being buried alive. It captures my friend’s childhood fear. He never said he would meet my request but he doesn't need to. I know he will step up to the plate if the situation requires it. I have told my family also about my wishes but, too frequently for comfort, loved ones are emotionally involved to the extent that they might not do what is right for me, opting to do what is right for them, hoping for that imaginary miracle or its secular equivalent.

Nor would I place my eggs in one basket. Others know what to do, even if they have to arrive with a pillow. These are the type of friends who would travel to Dignitas with me or with whom I would make the trip were either they or I to exercise our right to die at a time and in a way of our choosing once meaningful life has run out of road. I have no intention of circling the drain of life, fearful of taking the plunge. When it is my time to go, depart I shall with or without the approval of the law.

Yet, in 2021, I should not have to ask a friend to risk prosecution, possibly imprisonment, for doing the right thing. Anthony Grayling was on the money when he wrote in today's Sunday Times that “indeed it is astonishing to think that society can claim the right to deny help.” Yet, the refusal to help is what society often does.  

Reassuringly, in both parts of Ireland at present there is a head of steam building up to secure legislation that would permit assisted dying. Stoking the boiler are socialist parliamentarians Gerry Carroll and Gino Kenny. In the UK, a Dying with Dignity campaign is underway, with a bill already introduced by Baroness Meacher in the House Of Lords. Across Europe the practice is pushing back the entrenched barriers of redemptive suffering and other perverse forms of cruelty that masquerade as compassion and pro-life.  In the Australian state of Victoria legislation is in place which permits medically assisted dying. Despite the opposition, often religious, it has proven a humane success. The terminally ill, if they opt for it, are provided with a "black box" which they can open at a time of their choosing at home and ingest the contents. Loss of consciousness and a peaceful death quickly follow. Contrast that with hanging from an Irish tree because life is held to be sacred rather than precious.  

The current response to terminal illness is Palliative Care, even though it is known not to work in all cases, leading to people suffering horrendously agonising deaths. Assisted Dying is a humane attempt to answer the question that Palliative Care can not. 

So, if you are coming to see me on my death bed, bring a pillow, just to make me comfortable. 

 ⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

18 comments:

  1. Request noted
    Expect compliance with Doctor's orders!

    ReplyDelete
  2. All that matters is a dignified death. I moved to Victoria not very long ago and it's been broadly accepted here that the terminally ill should have the right to live the last of life as they see fit before choosing the moment of their passing. It's about compassion not about religion but occasionally the religious afflicted try to lecture about morality over it. Reassuring that our PM of Victoria who is a devout Catholic had no issue pushing it through parliament despite the usual howls of clerical protest.

    On a side note, and don't scoff, but have you tried to make a journal of your dreams? My better half writes them down when she wakes up as much as she can remember then reads them before going to sleep.

    Apparently it has helped her enormously, just a thought.

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    Replies
    1. I listened to a discussion on it via a podcast. One of the leading proponents is a practicing Catholic. I think he has arrived at the position whereby he accepts his right to practice Catholicism is grounded so long as it is himself he practices on.
      I want to forget the dreams not relive them though writing them down!!

      Delete
    2. Writing them down dispels the subconscious fear apparently, and reading them before sleep helps to change them to something benign.
      Worth a shot if it's troubling you, sleep is very important for good health! Give it a go, what have you got to lose?

      Delete
  3. AM

    I am scepticle about assisted death, not on any religious grounds, but what if an extreme right-wing government came about, would they use it to legintamise mass slaughtet of anybody they don't like? I like the black box idea, the victim of a terminal illness can end it all if/when things become unbearable.

    I often wonder if there is a sublimical message in dreams? I have just woke up from one; I was at Old Trafford back in the seventies. In this dream I was on the notorious Scoreboard Paddock terracing, exept it wasn't the terracing. They had put cinema sests where what was once wooden and concrete terraces. The old stand was the same, metal roof and stantions but with padded seats. The 4-5,000 madmen who stood on the paddock (psychos the lot of them, the "Barmy Army) had moved to K Stand above the away fans! A group of Liverpool fans came in and I found myself, with others helping them unfurl their banner. This is the oppossite to what would really have happened in the seventies. We were happy to assist the unfurling of a LFC banner, unheard of!

    My point is, could this be some kind of sign due to the recent solidarity between sections of United fans, me being one of them, with Liverpool over Hillsborough? As you probably know Liverpool, Everton and Trammere Rovers have banned the Sun newspaper due to its disgusting reports of the Hillsborough disaster. This has come about after the recent verdicts in the courts. United fans, at FCUM and, I understand Old Trafford are in solidarity with the working-class families of the Hillsborough victims, somethibg above football rivalry.

    Just a thought on this really strange but vivid dream.

    Caoimhin O'Muraile

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the right for people to hold a sceptical position cannot extend to denying others their right to die with assistance. Like abortion, if we disagree with it, we don't have one, not deny others the ability to have one.
      The argument you make to whatever extent it has validity could also apply to an extreme left wing government - deciding it is a good way to get rid of people it labels class enemies.
      I never try to interpret dreams. They are what they are.

      Delete
  4. But...but...but, it's sin.
    Funny how we treat dogs with more dignity than humans.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Alex McCrory Comments

    I speak to my friend Anthony McIntyre on the phone whenever the notion, or the need, arises.
    Our long conversations traverse across a range of subjects: family, politics, ideology, philosophy and society.
    I sometimes think they are exercises in escapism.
    A subject that often comes up is that of death, both the process and the final outcome.
    It is a strange, some would say morbid, preoccupation with our shared mortality.
    As we approach the deadline with a degree of increasing curiosity, it can occasionally penetrate our nocturnal rest. Dreams of horrible diseases, bouts of paralysis in the face of existential threats, or of ghosts past, upset emotional equilibrium.
    Today, I have the same frightening nightmares that I had as a boy growing up in a large household.
    Only death will bring lasting peace.

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    Replies
    1. Nothing strange nor nothing escapist in yours and Mackers' shared interest Alex.
      Back in 1980 existential and humanistic psychotherapist Irvin Yalom defined the four “givens” of the human condition as those of — death, meaning, isolation, and freedom. These topics, to my mind, are fundamental and those most worthy of discussion.
      Lads like yourself and Mackers, that did the hardest of hard time and survived, ought be to fore in understanding that it's the thoughts pertaining that are most unbearable rather than actual circumstances of themselves.
      Metaphorically speaking, going over the top for example isn't as bad as the lead-up and anticipation. It's the feelings, thoughts and emotions that go with all that which sucks the energy out much more do than unfolding events.

      Dreams and nightmares have a purpose. We've evolved to dream and can even notice our pets, our cats or dogs doing it. The fact that humans retained that capacity suggests it has utility. At times though what has advantage for the collective becomes 'corrupted' at level of an individual.

      Dissecting a reoccurring dream with a competent therapist might be both interesting and liberating?

      Delete
  6. Reminds me of "Johnny Got His Gun" by Dalton Trumbo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. just checked it out - the similarities are very much there

      Delete
  7. AM
    No genuine socialist administration would ever contemplate such an action. Idealy a socialist society would have no party, though I accept such a society where the state plays little role in governance, envisaged by James Connolly, would be complex. Certainly socialism would not be adopting fascist practises as you apear to suggest. If it did, that society would not be socialist.

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    Replies
    1. my difficulty with that is we hear the same sort of logic from religions: the bad stuff is the work of some ersatz socialist administration. The Gulag Left while politically different from the fascists certainly shared a lot of totalitarian features with the fascists. There is as much chance of me seeing Heaven as there is of me seeing a socialist Ireland. You too, unfortunately.

      Delete
  8. AM
    I tend to agree but that is no reason to drop the socialist ideology, as SF (provisional) have. The aim is a stateless egalitarian, environmentally friendly society free of the constraints of capitalism is the goal. Whether it will be achieved in my lifetime is doubtful, and that is being optimistic. The people who would benefit, the working-class, appear not to want it. If they did, they'd fight for it and given few enough are in trade unions, let alone anti-capitalist, what hope of unshackling themselves from the chains of capitalism? This applies to the proletariat of all countries, in fact the word "internationalism" once associated with the Marxist camp, has been hijacked by the global capitalists.

    On the other hand, and a little more optimistcally, ideas do change in struggle. I do firmly believe socialism will only ever come about through the armed revolution as bourgeois states will not surrender power even if a socialist administration was elected. I reffer to Harold Wilson in Britain, 1964, hardly an out and out Marxist, but even he was too much for the capitalist class. This was the time of the first cracks in the post-war consensus politics in Britain. Wilson, to suit the needs of British capitalism, forced through cuts in the NHS, the coal industry and railways based on Dr Beechings recomendations which labour were committed to defend. Once again, Connolly's claim, echoing Marx, that governments are "mere committees" is proved correct.

    But you are right, I'll probably never see it. One problem is these would be revolutionaries, wearing Leon Trotky look alike glasses, are all arguing about unimortant issues like, "was the USSR state capitalist or a degenerated workers state". A good discussion for academics but hardly relevant to workers on a picket line. I saw it on miners picket lines, it was embarrasing, trendy lefties telling hardened NUM pickets where they were going wrong. I wonder who these organisations are working for? The state perhaps? Certainly not to be trusted!!

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    Replies
    1. Caoimhin - when they start it is eyes glaze over time. It is like listening to evangelical Christians. The thought of them telling the miners where they were going wrong FFS. It is like one of those creationist cranks telling biologists that evolution never happened!

      Delete
  9. AM

    Eyes glaze over is right Anthony. Out of frustration with Neil Kinnocks lack of support for the NUM I joined the SWP. What an experience! I just could not imagine this crowd of idealists in any way carrying out their aims. It did not take me long to fall out with them. Their "unconditional but critical support", whatever that means, for the republican war effort in the six counties, then they thought they could tell the NUM executive how to run a strike, then frankly insulting pickets as to where they were going wrong. So, after a very short time I left. One good aspect, for me, was their educationals on very basic Marxism. A basis for the student to develop.

    ReplyDelete