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Coercive Treatment: It’s Not Worth It

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mentalnurse.org.uk is one of the only sites I’ve seen that allows the serious consideration of the possibility that allowing suicide can be morally correct, and that forcing people to stay alive through coercive “treatment” is often a moral disaster.

In a post by Mr. Ian, the experience of a commenter known as “Squawk” is related: she was subject to coercive psychiatric treatment, was “cured” and came out the other side, but, like me, she does not feel that it was worth it and continues to suffer from feelings of violation:

Was the coercive treatment worth it? Was going through utter hell every day for more than a year worth it? No. I love my life now, I’m not remotely suicidal, and I hope I do good things for the world. But even for everything I have now, the threats and the heavy meds and the tubes and the completely destroying *everything* I was 5 times a day every day day after day for more than a year – no, it wasn’t worth it. Nothing could be worth that. Not my first boyfriend, or getting my degree, or the first time a patient with PMLD recognised me and smiled when she’d only ever done that to her Mum, or being able to help the people I’m now volunteering full-time with who would otherwise have nothing, or eight years of a bloody fantastic life with ups & downs & friends & adventures & fun. Another eighty years, winning 5 Nobel Prizes, and being the first person to walk on Mars wouldn’t be worth going through a severe ED & treatment. Nothing could be. [Emphasis mine.]

I am sorry for her experience and agree wholeheartedly about the after-effects of coercive treatment.

Some people, of course, are forcibly treated and are later glad about it; I suspect that these are people without a strong sense of personal dignity.

Written by Sister Y

January 1, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Victims of the Suicide Prohibition: Debbie Purdy

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There are certain situations where a right to effective, comfortable assisted suicide might actually be pro-life. Such is the case of Debbie Purdy, the British woman with multiple sclerosis who recently won the right to a hearing to clarify the law on whether her husband would be prosecuted for assisting her suicide should she need his help.

Stories on Debbie Purdy’s struggle over the years reveal that her reason for wanting a guarantee of assisted suicide is that, while she loves life and wishes to continue living until her pain becomes unbearable, by then she will no longer be capable of ending her life without assistance. She is concerned that, if she waits and requires assistance to die, her husband will be prosecuted for attempted suicide. From The Guardian in 2004:

Assisting suicides carries a maximum 14-year sentence in Britain, one of the few European countries where it is still a crime. Purdy, like her 55,000 fellow members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, believes this is wrong. ‘The only thing that will improve the quality of my life now is a change in the law, so I don’t have to be thinking about what I’m going to have to do by myself. If that no longer becomes the biggest question in my life, then I can start thinking about overcoming the symptoms I cope with.’

[Purdy] considered going to Holland, where euthanasia for the terminally ill has been legalised. But patients need to have been registered with a Dutch doctor for two years before they qualify for medical assistance that would bring their lives to an end.

Purdy’s hopes for a law change look slim, at least for now. ‘People want to bury their heads in the sand on this issue. The other day I heard Linford Christie say “oh they could find a cure”. That’s just grabbing at straws. That’s denial.’

The prosecutor characterized Purdy’s case as “unarguable” because Britain lacks a specific policy on assisted suicide and has no obligation to produce one. Purdy has said that she is pleased to get a hearing, and is hopeful that assisted suicide will one day be legal in the UK.

A British forced life group, Care Not Killing, responds that assisted suicide should remain a criminal act:

The key issue here remains whether the law should be changed for the very small number of people who press for assisted suicide. Our view is that in order to protect others from exploitation it should not be.

In other words, sorry Debbie Purdy, but you must suffer for our values that you do not share.

Written by Sister Y

June 12, 2008 at 11:17 pm