Legalising assisting dying would mean “less suffering not more deaths”, a leading campaigner has said.
Lord Falconer, whose private member’s bill would legalise the practice for some terminally ill patients, said a “limited” change was needed to the law to give people choice on their deaths.
But Lord Tebbit said it would create “too much of a financial incentive for the taking of life”.
The bill passed its second reading in the Lords on Friday without a vote.
The proposed legislation would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients judged to have less than six months to live.
Making the case for his bill, Lord Falconer insisted that the “final decision must always be made by the patient”, with safeguards to prevent “abuse”
About 130 peers requested to speak in a debate that lasted for around 10 hours.
The bill will now be examined line-by-line by peers in the Lords as it passes to committee stage.
However, without government backing, MPs are unlikely to get a chance to debate it in the Commons, meaning it will not become law.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is not “convinced” by the arguments for legalising assisted dying but the bill has won the backing of Lib Dem Care Minister Norman Lamb.
The legislation would allow a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, making the choice of their own free will and after meeting strict legal safeguards, to request life-ending medication from a doctor.
Two independent doctors would be required to agree that the patient had made an informed decision to die.
Opening the debate in a packed house, Lord Falconer – a former Labour Lord Chancellor – told peers the current legal situation permitted the wealthy to travel abroad to take their own life while others were left “in despair” to suffer a “lonely, cruel death”.
“The current situation leaves the rich able to go to Switzerland, the majority reliant on amateur assistants, the compassionate treated like criminals and no safeguards in terms of undue pressure now,” he said.
He said many people were so worried about “implicating their loves ones in a criminal enterprise” by asking them for help to die that they took their lives “by hoarding pills or putting a plastic bag over their heads”.
Legalising assisted dying, he argued would allow a “small number” of people who didn’t want to “go through the last months, weeks, days and hours” of life to die with dignity.
Lord Falconer’s bill was backed by Lord Avebury, the former Liberal MP, who was diagnosed with terminal blood cancer in 2011.
He urged peers to consider helping thousands of people whom he said faced “weeks of torture before they die a means of escaping from that unnecessary fate”.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey said he had changed his mind about the issue and now believed that belief in assisted dying was “quite compatible” with being a Christian.
“When suffering is so great, when some patients already know that they are at the end of life, make repeated pleas to die, it seems a denial of the loving compassion that is the hallmark of Christianity to refuse to allow them to fulfil their clearly stated request,” he said.
Assisted dying debate
What is the current law on assisted dying around the UK?
The 1961 Suicide Act makes it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England and Wales. Anyone doing so could face up to 14 years in prison.
The law is almost identical in Northern Ireland. There is no specific law on assisted suicide in Scotland, creating some uncertainty, although in theory someone could be prosecuted under homicide legislation.
Have there been any previous attempts to change the law?
There have already been several attempts to legalise assisted dying, but these have been rejected.
The Commission on Assisted Dying, established and funded by campaigners who have been calling for a change in the law, concluded in 2012 that there was a “strong case” for allowing assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill in England and Wales.
But the medical profession and disability rights groups, among others, argue that the law should not be changed because it is there to protect the vulnerable in society.
What is the situation abroad?
In other countries, such as Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, legislation has been introduced to allow assisted dying. France is considering a possible introduction of similar legislation, although there is opposition from its medical ethics council.
Campaign group Dignity in Dying predicts that a lot more countries will follow suit.
Complete Article HERE!
An architect comes up with a surprising way to be productive one last time.
By Nina Shapiro
Katrina Spade started thinking about her mortality when she hit 30, while studying architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. What would she want to happen to her body after she died? she wondered. A traditional burial was out. She didn’t like the idea of putting her body in a casket, “pumped full of formaldehyde.” “I guess I’ll be cremated,” she thought, envisioning her ashes being scattered in beautiful New Hampshire, where she grew up, or maybe over the ocean.
Then she started musing over the notion of a “natural burial,” a phenomenon that has caught on in the past 10 or 15 years, helped by its starring role in one episode of the popular mid-’00s TV show Six Feet Under. Bodies skip the embalming process and are placed into the ground wrapped in a biodegradable cover—a simple pine coffin, perhaps, or even a cardboard box. Spade liked the idea of getting “bodies back to the earth as quickly as possible.” The problem was that natural-burial cemeteries are usually located outside cities, where there is more land. And Spade considered herself a devoted city dweller, even in death.
Could there be an urban alternative? This, she thought, was a design problem. And, as an architecture student, design problems were her métier.
So began Spade’s work on what she calls the “Urban Death Project,” which turned into her thesis. Its central idea is so radical, so contrary to deeply ingrained notions about how we treat our dead, that she knows that one wrong word used to describe it will turn people off. But there’s only one plain way to put it: Our bodies would be composted. Turned to dirt, spread on gardens, used, as Spade sees it, for something “productive one last time.”
Radical or no, her vision—which she kept refining after graduating, moving to Seattle, and taking a design job with the nonprofit architecture firm Environmental Works—is getting some traction. Late last month, the New York foundation Echoing Green awarded Spade an $80,000, two-year fellowship that will allow her to work on the project full time and build a prototype in the Seattle area.
“We recycle everything, why can’t we recycle ourselves?” asks Nora Menkin, who has heard Spade talk about her idea. Menkin is the managing director of Seattle’s Co-Op Funeral Home of People’s Memorial, which seeks to provide affordable cremations and burials and help families explore alternatives to the norms developed by the heavily commercialized funeral industry.
Spade is not the first to float the idea of composting bodies, according to Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, a Washington State University agriculture professor who has long worked on composting projects. But, she says, “This is certainly the most serious and socially appropriate trial I’ve heard about.” By that she means that Spade’s project tackles not only the mechanics of composting bodies, but also our need to create meaningful ceremonies around death and to treat the remains of our loved ones with respect.
“I’m asking people to accept that we don’t all need our own space when we die.”
Spade, speaking by phone last week from Rhode Island, where as it happens she was attending a memorial service for her grandmother, explains that she sees one of her chief jobs as “making this an incredibly beautiful experience for people.” The model she has come up with, pictured in drawings that can be seen on her website, involves a four-story building that would have a series of ramps connecting each floor. The vertical model saves space; Spade envisions it needing no more than a plot of land suitable for a small apartment building. Crucially, though, the structure also plays a ceremonial role, as loved ones would walk the body up the ramps in ritualistic procession.
On the third floor, the family would pause and the body would be wrapped in linen. Spade envisions a “death midwife” taking the lead here. Death midwives, also known as “home funeral guides,” are another product of the movement to reclaim life’s end from the industry that has grown up around it, according to Menkin, who took a California workshop to train for such a role herself. Midwives clean and prepare the body for what comes next, often working with family members who want to help—the process that Spade sees happening on the third floor of her center.
Then, family members would walk the body up to the top floor. Here, they would lay the body on what Spade calls “the core”—the compost pile of bodies that would be mixed with wood chips and sawdust in a formula that fuels the decomposition process. Our bodies in themselves are a great start, full of “nutrients” that microorganisms love to eat, according to Carpenter-Boggs, who adds that it’s this feeding frenzy that produces the energy crucial to the process.
Spade acknowledges that this communal pile, rather than individual plots of land or a cherished urn, is a psychological leap. “I’m asking people to accept that we don’t all need our own space when we die.”
And what about the smell? Spade says that’s the first question she gets—a crucial one, because foul odors are a big problem at many composting facilities. Local composting giant Cedar Grove has faced community complaints about that for years.
Spade says she’s confident that won’t be an issue with her death centers, pointing to the process used to compost livestock animals. Carpenter-Boggs, who’s helped pioneer the practice at WSU with the university’s farm animals, explains that there are fewer fumes than at commercial facilities because animal composting doesn’t involve rotting garbage. Commercial faculties also sometimes use smelly manure as additives to the compost pile. That practice would be avoided when dealing with humans, says Carpenter-Boggs, who is working as an informal consultant to Spade.
The professor imagines the death centers, which would use neutral or even sweet-smelling additives, smelling “like a garden.” Indeed, Spade hopes city dwellers will treat her sites as if they were such, strolling through on their lunch hour, for instance.
Still, there’s no doubt she’ll have to overcome what Menkin calls “the ick factor.” The co-op funeral home director says marketing will be key.
Spade has got a start on that. She makes the environmental arguments for composting, noting that it won’t take up arable land, require “toxic” chemicals as embalming and burial does, or use the 30,000 cubic feet of natural gas that she says it takes to burn a single body. If some might bristle at that approach—Michigan funeral director Thomas Lynch quipped to The New York Times, writing about natural burials a decade ago, that one must now be a “politically correct corpse”—Spade also has a financial case. She says composting should cost far less than either burials or cremations.
Complete Article HERE!
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey says he will support legislation that would make it legal for terminally ill people in England and Wales to receive help to end their lives.
Lord Carey writes in the Daily Mail that he has dropped his opposition to the Assisted Dying Bill “in the face of the reality of needless suffering”.
But the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called the bill “mistaken and dangerous”.
Peers will debate the bill on Friday.
Tabled by Labour peer Lord Falconer, the legislation would make it legal for adults in England and Wales to be given assistance ending their own life. It would apply to those with less than six months to live.
Two doctors would have to independently confirm the patient was terminally ill and had reached their own, informed decision to die.
Some 110 peers are already listed to speak when the House of Lords debates the private members bill on Friday.
Humor takes the sting away; it humanizes us; it helps us keep our perspective. Humor enriches us; it educates us; it brings us joy. Humor doesn’t dissolve the pain or make our life any less poignant, but it does help make things more bearable. That’s my philosophy, and I’m happy to share it with you on a weekly basis. I hope that if you enjoy what you see, you will take the opportunity to share it with others.
The task of interpreting the symbols on a headstone or memorial is a daunting one. Although most of the symbols that you will see DO have a textbook meaning, it is quite possible that the headstone or memorial you are looking at was put there simply because someone liked the look of it. Therefore, it will have no meaning beyond the taste of the deceased or those left behind to morn. The point is that many people choose a memorial motif not for its textbook meaning, but simply because they like the ornamentation or design, because it feels “right” or appropriate.