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.
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.
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.