Let me leave in peace

DEAR sections 18 and 31c of the NSW Crimes Act,

The other night my toddler let off one of those midnight poo missiles that sprayed detritus as far as the nose could smell. There was poo in her pyjamas, poo dripping from Elmo and poo smeared cave-girl style over the bedroom wall.

Scraping up someone else’s shit is never fun, particularly in the evil hours of the pre-dawn when consciousness alone is deeply disturbing. And as I cleaned and comforted and cleaned some more, one thought kept running through my crap-covered head. It was: Never, ever do I want my daughter to have to do this for me.

I bring this unsavoury subject up, dear Crimes Act, because recent court cases have once again raised the sticky issue of euthanasia and whether others can be enlisted to help orchestrate our exits. Given the ghastly consequences of confusion, it seems critical to make our views on the subject crystal clear.

Let me start by saying that I realise your intentions are honourable. You don’t want people topping us simply because they’ve taken a shine to our wallets or our wills. You don’t want a society that automatically snuffs its members the moment they get ear hair or that mothbally, old-dude smell.

But surely there are circumstances under which you can cut us some slack.

The harsh truth is that I’d rather cark it than live in crippling pain and dependence. I’m just not the type, Crimes Act. I’m not very stoic, I’ve got a stupidly low pain threshold and I’m kinda addicted to being able to look after myself. I don’t plan to give up at the first sign of a sniffle but I do know there’ll come a time when I’ll graciously concede the game to Ms Reaper.

I’d also rather expire than become an overwhelming burden on the people I adore. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about needing help touching up my purple perm or changing the tyres of my zippy senior scooter. I’m referring to personality loss, absolute immobility and midnight poo missiles.

Quality, public-funded pensioner care will be as rare as petrol by the time gen X-ers such as myself enter the Drooling Zone.

This will mean partners, offspring and relatives — probably female partners, offspring and relatives — will be left changing the nappies and sponging the bed sores. Well, dear Crimes Act, I hereby relinquish my right to life: a) if it no longer contains trace elements of quality; or b) if clinging on means the lives of my loved ones no longer contain the same.

Obviously not all citizens should be subjected to this rule. Those folk who wish to linger long into their bingo years should never be told their time is up and subjected to involuntary wrinkly-cide. But where, oh where, is the advantage in restraining those of us who wish to make a considered and dignified early departure?

What I suggest is something along the lines of an organ donor consent card that enables us to indicate our end-of-life preferences: where we stand on the subject of euthanasia on principle and under what circumstances we may be prepared to pass the decision-making on to others.

Your raison d’etre, Crimes Act, is to distrust. To search for lies and deception and malevolent intent. But I trust my loved ones to make these choices for me if I can no longer make them myself. If I can’t speak, I know they’ll understand the look in my eyes. If my eyelids won’t open, I know they’ll know me well enough to just know. And if they screw up one way or another, I forgive them because I know they will have agonised and done their damnedest.

I don’t want to be kept alive on principle, dear Crimes Act. If I find myself in a living death, I want to be given an exciting drug and permitted to drift pleasantly off with your blessing. And if someone happens to help, I want your murder, manslaughter and aiding suicide sections to leave them the hell alone.
Because, with all due respect, this would be a death that wasn’t any of your business.

- originally published in The Australian on 26-06-2008.

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