Thursday. A moment of unexpected peace and quiet which allows me to get on and do the mail. It’s a little bit difficult to do even that. My mother is dead, but not yet cremated. It is an uneasy period, feared all down the years, with rituals to ward off evil influences and keep the soul of the dead safe. It is a time of loss but not closure, and it makes me almost genetically uneasy.
At least the mail concentrates the mind. The mail mountain has been huge for years, but since the Dimbleby lecture it has become Himalayan in nature. A great many of the letters and e-mails from fans are easy to deal with; it’s the new ones that summon my attention now, like the one here from the elderly lady who says “when people say that organisations for the disabled are against assisted suicide, who have they asked? No one has ever asked my opinion! Personally, I hope for a quick and painless death however it comes, but I think I am far too old to be dictated to.”
Next, I’m sent a URL to rant about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). The LCP is, in short, a means of allowing the dying to die in comfort when all medical intervention has failed. It is a tick-box system, perhaps rightly so, but I spend some time following the dreary trail of objections from those, who, I swear won’t be happy unless we all die praying. It could be euthanasia by the back door, you see, or assisted dying by stealth or, for all I know a holiday caravan for Satan and his little imps.
Of course, this is the Internet, and these people love the Internet because you don’t get challenged and it doesn’t matter if you make things up. You can scare and assert to your heart’s content, without qualification or come back.
To me, innocently, it seems that since it is inevitable that some people will die in hospital, a formalisation of the process fits these idiotic bureaucratic times.
The day brightens a little with a genuine crackpot; I don’t get as many of these as some people might think. But this one is rather nasty. There are about eight pages of very small writing in a tone that we have all come to know. In so far as it can be read, I will go to hell because God loves me.
That’s funny. What isn’t is the fact that several times on the pages there is a hand drawn picture of what appears to be Jesus, not just crucified but eviscerated. Rob grabs it and puts it on the fire.
And now there’s another one from a former nurse who was appalled to see elderly ladies being force-fed in a hospice, against their feeble protestations. I get quite a few letters from former nurses. Seldom is their purpose to tell me about the wonders of care homes.
This sort of thing is interspersed with, of course, news of snake oil cures for Alzheimer’s, requests for signed book (the full range of signed Discworld paperbacks are now available HERE) and invitations to come and talk to schools hundreds of miles away on the basis that it will only take half an hour of my time. It’s standard fare.
But here is a new one, ostensibly from a doctor, saying that doctors and hospitals know what they are doing and discussions for things like assisted dying only complicate the issue. I can’t reply, firstly because he has wisely left of his name and address and also I would rather prefer that the issue remained complex.
There are three states in the US and four countries in Europe where some sort of assisted dying is legal. I know something about them, but not enough. I intend to know a lot more. To the best of my knowledge the practices, in some at least, usually involve only the prospective patient and the medical profession. I think that a properly working society requires more than that and this brings me to another letter which various people send to me, and which leads me to believe that there is a kind of person who does this sort of thing for a hobby. Alison Davis is a lady with a number of debilitating conditions, all unpleasant. She has been quoted as saying that many years ago she was so depressed that she might have opted for assisted suicide had it been available, and now is glad she did not.
This is regularly hurled forward as an argument against assisted dying, put forward by people like the Care Not Killing Alliance. In fact it is not an argument against assisted dying, it is an argument against unthoughtout and unregulated assisted death. All those I know who are serious about this believe that assisted dying should only be available to people who are of a
sound mind (perhaps, at least, rather sounder than the author of the eviscerated Christ letter) and possessed of a terminal and untreatable condition. Therefore Ms Davis’ request for an assisted death would have been politely but firmly rejected by the tribunal as proposed despite her feelings at that time. It has always been part of the thinking in this matter that the tribunal system would have, as an important part of its remit, the urging of alternatives as well as proposals for a cooling off period and whatever else wise people can suggest.
You probably don’t know any of this, because there is no actual debate on the subject given that the other side disappear into the distance screaming “Slippery slope! Slippery slope!” and generally doing their best to suggest that we might as well march the elderly and infirm into the gas chambers.
My anonymous doctor, rather testily, finished “why are you getting involved in this? You’ve got, surely, enough money not to have to worry.”
Well, I hope that’s true; it certainly isn’t true for everyone. Besides I’m not in it for that reason. I recognise the opposition. It’s the opposition to legalise votes for women, abortion, the extension of the franchise and once upon a time the opposition to giving painkillers to women in labour, on the basis that they should pay for ‘the sin of Eve’. Queen Victoria, famously fecund, put a stop to that evil stupidity. I recognise their tone of voice; it is the headmaster enraged because the fifth form are being cheeky. There is no shame because they know they are right even if, in some cases, they are on the right. Jeers, sneers and smears and, of course, repeatedly, adhominom arguments are all, therefore, fair enough.
In every case there was a chorus that forecast, more or less the end of the world. Well, here we are and if the world is ending it would appear to be for other reasons. People, you and me, are not trusted. The right doesn’t like us because we don’t do what we’re told by our betters, and the left doesn’t like us because it secretly thinks we would be on the right given half a chance and a lottery win. And both think we should not make our own decisions, because we might make the wrong ones.
Almost every decision to take one’s own life is a bad decision.
Last night our local TV news dealt with the inquest of an elderly couple who, fearful of their future, had decided to take their own lives and meticulously gassed themselves. I suspect, given that they were sensible people who had clearly thought long and hard about their decision, no tribunal would have prevented that. Though if they had qualified for an assisted death under a tribunal system, they would not have had to resort to such desperate measures to end their lives.
We are presented with a version G.K.Chesterton’s game ‘Fool the Prophet’. Governments and religions make rules that the compliant populous puts up with right up until they decide not to. Suicide and assisted dying will continue to happen no matter what opponents may hope and we know that by far the majority of people in this country are in favour of it being available in the terms I have just mentioned. Almost every politician pushes that fact aside. I must say I am rather surprised at Ann Widecombe who, I always thought had her head screwed on, but it turns out that it is against the thread. For one thing, she doesn’t seem to realise that it is legal to argue for the legalisation of something that is currently illegal. If this were not the case, there would be no such thing as politics.
Anyway, on a much lighter note and, oh boy, lighter notes are in short supply right now, the words “The End” have been written on I Shall Wear Midnight, but the last draft has been delayed, by what might be called the circumstances of the human condition. Nevertheless, we press on.
We’ve been to see the full-length adaptation of Going Postal on a big screen at Twentieth Century Fox in London, which was excellent, and I have to say that the clacks is beautifully done… and although I promised not to give away too much, there’s not long to wait as it will be on your screens in May, but I don’t know the exact date yet – maybe someone at Sky tosses a coin and makes the decision? Though please be aware that although we are getting a lot of enquiries, there will definitely not be a premiere on this occasion, the money is going to be spent on advertising rather than on booze; preferably I would have preferred the booze, but marketing departments prefer advertising. STOP PRESS: Sky have just sent us the new trailer so click HERE and enjoy.
I am also getting lots of enquiries about my sword. Well, the sword is finished and when we get the pedigree back from the blacksmith we will write about it more fully.
More news: I was interviewed by Stephen Sackur for BBC HARDtalk. If you’re in the UK you can catch it on the iPlayer HERE.
And I have to say that although I thought the Seamstresses pin was superb, the Thieves’ Guild Crest is actually one of my favourites, especially if you were one of the lucky ones to get a glow in the dark variant. A nice touch.
There’ll be more from me soon, I hope, once we’ve navigated our way back down the mail mountain and returned from Cannes, where me and Rob are off to in a couple of weeks.
All the best.
PS – We’re off to Cannes next week for the official launch of Going Postal.