“Shaking hands with death” – Terry Pratchett gives the Dimbleby Lecture
Assisted dying has been back in the news recently, with two different personal cases tugging the media’s attention in different directions.
Last night, humanist and Distinguished Supporter of the BHA, Terry Pratchett, gave the Richard Dimbleby Lecture. He was the first novelist to give the lecture and his subject was assisted dying. Due to complications arising from early onset Alzheimer’s, the lecture itself is given by “stunt Pratchett”, the actor Tony Robinson.
You can see the lecture on the BBC iPlayer.
The main form of the lecture’s argument is available though the lecture itself contains some more personal stories and asides.
Pratchett speaks movingly off his father’s slow death and how things might have been different, if he and the nurses and the doctors not been locked into a law which forbade a better way.
His rallying charge – “My life. My death. My choice.” – receive heartfelt applause.
He goes on to propose a tribunal mechanism for the insurance of compassionate and moral treatment of applicants (“horrible word”) for assisted dying. He refutes the counter-arguments that trust of doctors would decline or that vulnerable people must be protected (“as if no one else thinks that”) declaring that there is no evidence of a slippery slope in states where assisted dying is already legal. He rejects also the “God argument”, saying:
“I am a humanist … We do need people in this world to remind us that we are all human and humanity is precious. It’s that much heralded thing: the quality of life that’s important. How you live your life, what you get out of it, what you put into it and what you leave behind after it. We should aim for a good and rich life, well-lived, and at the end of it in the comfort of our own home in the company of those who love us, have a death worth dying for.”
As we’ve mentioned before on HumanistLife, Terry Pratchett spoke to the British Humanist Association last year on assisted dying and that video follows below:
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