Tuesday, 14 June 2011


The human being is a complex beast.

I watched the documentary last night on people who were considering (and eventually going through with) assisted suicide at Dignitas. Despite the incredibly beautiful art direction it was a difficult thing to watch.

The program was hung on the shoulders of Terry Pratchett, himself an Alzheimer's sufferer. His almost entirely amateur approach to meeting the people who had booked themselves a one way trip to Switzerland somehow added to the humanity of the whole affair. At one point, as a doctor discussed the final act of drinking the poison with a patient*, TP loitered in the background wearing a long black coat and a black Fedora. Add to this his gaunt, almost skeletal features and the similarity to the character Death in his novels can't have been lost on him.

The people involved who had chosen to die were both quite different in their ages (one late 60s, one 42) and their social status, but both were incisively eloquent in their reasoning and absolutely convinced that they were doing the right thing. That the right to self-determination was a something that they were entitled to.

As I watched it made me think. I was taken aback by the dignity and strength of character of those filmed. Not the people going to die, but those who would be coming back without their loved ones. The incredibly posh wife of 40 years who sat and was terribly stoic with her husband as he breathed his last. The mother of the 42 year old who fundamentally disagreed with her son's decision to die, but went with him to a small industrial park in Switzerland to ensure that he wasn't alone. It all spoke volumes about the human ability to show love and compassion despite a fundamental disagreement with the decision made.

I wondered if I would make that decision if I were to be in the position of suffering a hugely debilitating/painful and incurable illness. Would the wishes of those close to me sway that decision? Would I have the courage or the cowardice to end it all with a small glass of liquid in a foreign land? If the shoe was on the other foot, would I be able to accept the wishes of someone I loved and support them through that process if they asked me to? Hopefully I'll never have to find out.

If you didn't see the documentary, I thouroughly recommend it. Easy it is not, but thought provoking it most definitely is.


* - Patient? Customer? User? No word seems to fit here.


  1. I haven't seen the programme, but for that mother to take her son whilst hating the thought of it, my heart goes out to her.

  2. I didn't see the documentary and I don't think I could answer any of the questions you raise...I hope I never have to. Thought-provoking though..

  3. Didn't watch it........imagine it must have been just too emotional to see....a subject that no one wants to face really.

  4. AG - The thought of having to help a child through that is the most disturbing of all.

    CQ - it was fascinating and depressing and life affirming all at the same time.

    Libby - I didn't know if I'd be able to watch it, but I'm glad I did.