15 February 2007

A Right to Pain-Free Life?

I've just heard the Rev Roy Jenkins on Thought for the Day discussing the case of Kelly Taylor who has lived with a couple of terminal diseases the whole of her life and is seeking a judicial ruling to force doctors to give her a lethal dose of morphine. I heard Mrs Taylor being interviewed by the BBC a couple of nights ago and was struck by the shallowness of her case.

"I want to assert my own independence," she declared. Having told us that she had attempted to take her life by starvation but it had hurt too much, she went on in apparent good humour to state that she couldn't bear life any longer. After a brief pause she admitted that life was alright, it was pain she was tired of.

Her lawyers will argue that doctors' refusal to kill her contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans "inhuman or degrading treatment." Well, though we might sympathise with Mrs Taylor's plight, if she genuinely believes the NHS is treating her in an inhuman or degrading manner, she needs a lesson in some of the conditions that the majority of people endure on a daily basis around the world.

Mrs Taylor possibly only has a year to live. She clearly has the energy to fight for a cause. She could have chosen one that would have given hope and made her an inspiration to many. It is a pity she has chosen one that is symptomatic of so much that is wrong with modern Western society and its obsession with selfishly individual "rights".

For more on this case, visit the NHS Blog Doctor.