Update from Terry Feb 2010


So many people have contacted me since the Richard Dimbleby lecture that there is no possibility at all that I can reply to everyone individually.

Generally speaking people are asking what they can do to help, support and, indeed, take some control over their own death. The people to contact for all this are at Dignity in Dying – www.dignityindying.org.uk –  they can campaign better than two blokes in an office.

I’m getting some interesting letters though, some of them are from couples who have refrained from having children for the good of the planet, and now fear facing their final illness with no one to fight their corner. The same thinking seems to be affecting people who are happily single. Suddenly the ties of family seem more attractive than once they did. As one lady said “saying that friends are the new family is all very well, but it starts to ring hollow as we get older.”

I want to make it clear what it is that I have been saying recently since retelling can change things.

I think that assisted death should be available to people who clearly have a serious and incurable disease and are demonstrably capable of making their wishes felt and clearly do understand their situation.

And that is that. Causing or assisting the death of somebody who has not made their wishes publicly clear should be treated, at least initially, as murder. If there are exonerating circumstances, then the legal system is capable of recognising these. We are not, by and large an uncaring and punitive society.

The tribunal idea which the charity Dignity in Dying is investigating is a suggestion, and at the moment only that.

I believe it could help those unclear about the law and the guidelines, and also act as a gentle filter, identifying the hypothetical pressured grannies that opponents of assisted dying continue to summon up as an argument, but also perhaps to suggest that a future that currently looks dark may yet be improved. I suspect that the majority of people seeking assisted death will be individuals in every sense of the word, looking for an organised death after a productive and organised life. I’m probably one of them. But I must say, it is a pleasure to meet other people with PCA, even if only to share anecdotes with those who truly know where you’re coming from. A trouble shared is not halved, whatever the proverb says, but at least it is understood.

The generation currently sliding into old age must surely be the first one ever to grow up unfamiliar with the realities of death. It has been hidden away, not spoken of, not acknowledged. It would be better for our mental health to do so.

I can just remember, when I was a child, that sometimes you would see somebody wearing a black band around their arm, as a sign of mourning. I’ve seldom seen them as an adult. But now the task of dying is left to us, we might as well get good at it.

On a more cheeful note, I’m working my way through the second draft of I Shall Wear Midnight, but as ever fighting for writing time among all the other calls. I shall be back on the sofa of the One Show on Thursday 11th February at 7pm on BBC One and I hope to get my Seamstresses Guild Crest before bumping into Christine Bleakley again 🙂

Late News: We’ve been told that my sword is ready for viewing; I couldn’t have any hand in the making of the horn hilt or the silverwork.  Sadly, I won’t get to see it until next week.

All the best.