In a Word . . . Euthanasia

Old age has little to offer . . . who wants to end up incontinent in mind and body?

 

I have no ambition, ever, to be the oldest man in Ireland. I do not want the media traipsing to my nursing home bed where I am propped up before an icing-covered sponge cake with 118 candles.

I do not want cameras there as I am presented with a cheque from the President, or bored reporters asking me that underwhelming question: “What is the secret of your long life?” Then again . . .

Were it to happen, there is just one reason why I would ever like to be 118. I would love to be asked that question. I would love to reply to them: “Loads of late nights. A bottle or two of brandy a day. Plenty of red meat. Forty cigarettes between sunrise and sunset. No religion. Sex whenever with whomever/whatever, wherever I could get it. And a very bad temper.” It might stop them asking that daft question again for fear they’d get an honest answer.

I have always believed our life design is upside down. Where people “vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease/And wear their brave state out of memory”, as Shakespeare put it. We grow; hold our perfection briefly; we decline. Might it not be more humane were it the other way around?

Some suggest that is what happens, how with old age we revert to childhood. That, however, is accompanied by a stripping away of our independence, our dignity, as control disintegrates and we become a humiliation to ourselves.

Old age has little to offer. We should not be trying to prolong it. Who wants to end up incontinent in mind and body? Why should anyone be forced to endure such final humiliation against their will?

It is said that some years ago, when asked his opinion on euthanasia, a rural TD responded: “I suppose they’re no better than our own youth here at home.” He could be forgiven as few talked about euthanasia then. Now, it’s different.

In this newspaper last month we featured Kate Tobin, a former nun who worked for 13 years as a palliative care nurse. She has MS and wants the right to die when it progresses. Who are we to say she should be forced against her will to suffer the humiliating latter stages of that awful disease?

Euthanasia, from Greek meaning an “easy, good, or happy death”. From eu/good plus thanatos/death.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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