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Yes to rising apes…

February 3, 2010
Death with a kitten

Paul Kidby's Death with a kitten. Click through to his website to buy all sorts of excellent Discworld stuff.

I’m a big fan of TV. For all the property porn, tat in the attic, police chasing scum (with often ill-advised commentary) guff that clogs up the schedules – there is plenty to entertain and educate too. For all that, I’m guilty of not always paying attention these days. I often find I’m listening to the TV and looking up from the laptop every so often to keep up (or drool over Rufus Sewell). Ironic then, that watching Terry Pratchett’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture last night, I sat rivetted. There wasn’t a lot going on visually, and through the embuggerance of his illness, Sir Terry was unable to read most of his lecture to his anyway (Tony Robinson standing in excellently as the stunt-Pratchett). But, still, the laptop was put away within a moment or two and I sat and watched one man reading out another’s man’s wonderful words.

I’m a big fan of Terry P’s. I’ve loved his books since I discovered them in the late ’80s and as I’ve matured I’ve come to understand just how smart he is, how well he understands people, how compassionate (but never sentimental) his books are. I’m hardly alone in hoping Binky won’t be trotting onto his lawn anytime soon – and that we have many more books to come – but I blubbed several times watching the lecture last night, and I doubt I’m alone in that.

His argument for assisted dying is – as you would expect from such a rigourous thinker – clearly and carefully thought out. The notion that if he knew he could die, he would live broke my heart (again) and I’m sure is a something many in his (or very similar) situations would empathise with.

I understand that there must be checks and balances, but I think we have to be grown-up about  this. Modern medicine kept my Nana alive past the point of dignity. I’m fairly sure she wouldn’t have minded letting go six months, or even eighteen months, earlier than she did. Her pacemaker – fitted when it seemed a kind and helpful thing to do – kept jolting her back to a slow, undignified demise. She wasn’t terminally ill, she didn’t need pointing to heaven as such, but she was old, frail and her body had had enough. She wouldn’t have been a candidate for assisted dying, but the point is that modern medicine can keep us alive past the point where perhaps it should, and so for many death has become something to be avoided at all costs.

I’m not afraid of death (or Death, bless his bony body). I hope that it doesn’t come until my daughter is old enough to cope with it reasonably well, but beyond that death holds no terrors for me. Dying on the other hand… cripes. Even assuming that I escape the roulette wheel of terminal disease, I’m not much looking forward to dying. How much worse must it be to be in the grip of some debilitating illness, knowing what horrors await you but too fearful for your loved ones to be able to ask them to help?

We need a solution and I hope it comes quickly, so that Sir Terry and everyone else can stop worrying (well, mostly) about dying and enjoy living while they can.

If you haven’t already seen the lecture, it’s available on the BBC iPlayer for a few more days. Or you can read an edited extract of the lecture on the Guardian’s website.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Peat permalink
    February 5, 2010 12:48 am

    My Grandfather wanted to die on the day my Grandmother died. She was the love of his life and it took him 18 months to die of a broken heart and he deteriorated every day mourning her. He finally gave up on the anniversary that they first met (we only found out later). A good day to die. But then, so was the day my Grandmother died.
    I know he had some good days and I cherish the ones I was there for but I know it was 18 months of hell for him.
    I have much more to say but perhaps best left for another day…

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