Friday, 17 August 2012

The Right to Live

This piece has been waiting to escape from my weary brain for quite some time. Some people won't like it but tough.

Every few years we get someone with a terminal illness who feels that they have to change the law about assisted suicide/euthanasia/topping yourself. They usually don't actually want to die right away but want to know that if they do decide they've had enough and can't physically take their own life someone else will and not be prosecuted.

The media love it. The general public get very upset and pity the poor disabled wretch. 'We wouldn't keep an animal alive in that condition' (I know someone with an old disabled dog who cares for him and would never put him down). TV programmes debate the rights and wrongs and then it's forgotten until the next court case/terminally ill 'hero' attempts to change the law. I'm going to explain why I believe that nothing should change and it's based on my own experience, so enjoy the ride...

I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) when I was 34 and expecting my son. I didn't know what MND was and was absolutely horrified when I found out. My body stopped doing what it had always done and I didn't know how to cope. My ex-husband started to mock the way I walked and spoke. He called me ugly, said I smelled ill and moved out of our bedroom. Every now and then I would get a thump from him. I still can't look at his hands.

I cried every single day for three years and wanted to die. Being a fairly observant Jew at that time, I knew that taking my own life was forbidden. I didn't have the guts anyway and was also in denial, hoping that I'd recover. By the time I realised that MND wasn't going away I couldn't use my hands. I had lots of total strangers caring for me, seeing me naked and wiping me after I used the toilet. I was deeply depressed, barely eating and started begging my hospice doctor to end my life. He felt so sorry for me that I know that he would have snuffed out my life if it was legal.

I'm so glad that he couldn't. I would have missed the best adventures of my life.

So what turned it around? Great care from my hospice, antidepressants, chucking the husband out, getting a computer that I could use without hands, some romance and regaining my confidence again. Instead of dying I started to live again. My children still have a mother and I'm a good one. I can write, read, work and paint. If you don't know me you can see what I'm up to here. If you do know me, I have to go because I have questions from a journalist to answer, two exhibitions to prepare for, several articles to write and I'd rather be painting.