Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Conversation with Robin Ince on Assisted Dying


The following is a conversation I had yesterday with Robin Ince who has just become the patron of Dignity in Dying, a campaigning group that is seeking a change in the law in the UK to permit assisted suicide.

It happened on Twitter, and I was delightfully surprised when my response to his tweet announcing his patronage was met with a reply, and a long conversation.

Such is the nature of Twitter that these tweets could easily be lost in a few days, so I've attempted to repost them here as a record of that exchange. 

Because of the pace of the conversation, I've sought to arrange tweets in order of their response, rather than simply chronologically. I hope it makes sense. 

I'd love to hear your comments.


have just become a patron of this enlightened campaign Dignity in Dying. here is Patrick Stewart voicing the campaignhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LPO4Ke1EtQ …

@robinince it doesn't feel very enlighted to ask someone to kill you, or to opt out of all of life's experience, including the end.

@baptistjon oh and it is enlightened to be forced to lie in agony wishing for the choice to die

@baptistjon perhaps read up on how euthanasia is reduced when the option is there

@robinince Thanks for replying. I'm not seeking to deny either the pain of those suffering, or the difficulty of the issues here.

@baptistjon why are those who believe their life is unbearable not allowed to have a choice to leave it?

@robinince But I find myself thinking there simply has to be a better way that ending it. I wonder about the effects on those asked to help

@baptistjon what of those who die before they want to because they would be unable to make the journey to Dignitas when more unwell

@robinince I wonder what it says about how our enlightened society handles suffering if the best option is to simply end it forever.

@baptistjon i think it says very little about our society and more about the sometimes abysmal ways people go towards their death

@baptistjon my main argument would be that when people have the choice it appears they are less likely to decide to die

@robinince but implied within that is that there will be those who choose to use it, or ask others to administer it.

@robinince it seems desperate, rather than dignified.

@baptistjon one can hope that medical science will find new ways of reducing agony and improving life

@robinince Suffering is horrible, but the implications of asking people to help kill each other are huge

@baptistjon yes it is desperate, and some people are in desperate situations. did you see the tears of Tony Nicklinson?

@robinince yes, I did, and found it humbling, moving, but more than anything sad, sad because he'd fixed on death as his only option

@baptistjon what were his other options? I wonder how much easier his existence would have been if he knew that the option to die was there?
@robinince perhaps that would've been a sustaining thought. But having it is no placebo.

@robinince there's no way of getting that benefit without opening up the certainty that people would want to use it

@baptistjon i think many against imagine this sort if nonchalant "ooh I feel poorly, can someone kill me"

@robininceI'm not coming at this provocatively, really, I'm aware of desperate situations, from time to time I'm drawn into them.

@robinince my fear is that we open this option before fully questioning, probing, reflecting on all the implications.

@baptistjon i believe our desire to live is so great that the will to die is something of such immensity it takes a huge leap

@robinince Does the enlightened life have to place self in the centre, regardless of implications for others?

@robinince doesn't it deny others the chance to show real love, not by killing, but by sustaining, supporting, bringing grace and peace?

@baptistjon some people find it heard to gain grace and peace trapped in their own mind, unable to communicate or function

@robinince I'm certain that's true. But an enlightened society seeks to help the person experience that, surely? not merely switch life off?

@baptistjon this would never be a throwaway decision, to switch of our consciousness, to end our existence...

@robinince again, I'm grateful for the time you've taken to respond. I wonder where the place is we get to deal with these questions 1/2

@robinince 2/2 in a spirit of openness and enquiry, rather than entrenched position-defending, so thanks for this.

@baptistjon i imagine being a human unable to move so much as a finger.I can understand that for some it is unbearable - a living hell

@robinince I agree with you, It would seem that way. And we both know the usual arguments. But there must be a better way

@baptistjon well the only better way must be forcing someone who wishes to die to live


@baptistjon i think you see a greater power in a god, that is your choice, why do I not have my choice

@robinince You introduce faith, and of course that informs my own thinking and decisions. But even without God, my questions stand, no?

@baptistjon but i think the belief in a life beyond our earthly life will always change a view on the right to die

@robinince Of course, and I'm not trying to convert you (I mean, if greenbelt couldn't...) but even on simply human terms

@baptistjon we are given freedom of choice for so many things, our own life must surely be one of them

@robinince to have as only option to end it all is not dignified. It says we failed to find the way to cope with all of life.

@baptistjon it is not the only option, we are talking about when all other options have failed, it is the final option

@robinince If only it was final. The decision to involve someone else lives on in them.

@baptistjon it is our duty to find as many ways to make a life worth living, if life is unbearable to someone how cruel to make them live it

@baptistjon we are our minds, some find their minds in agony, we try solace, solace fails, what then?

@robinince Aren't we more than just minds? Aren't we our complex set of relationships too? Don't we find and give meaning to each other?

@baptistjon I have to stop this now. (mind is where all our experience lies, our love, our experience of others etc. it is where we live)

@robinince I've appreciated the conversation, thanks

@baptistjon i think you do not understand what I am saying, so best left now before we waste time on semantics

@robinince I think the issue probably isn't not understanding, but rather not agreeing. And that's how we find a path to truth, I hope.

@robinince There's an old saying "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another", thanks again for this exchange.


@baptistjon my point was once we get to the definition of mind and experience it will go on forever

@robinince quite possibly. A discussion for another time, and perhaps a side issue here.

@baptistjon yes, probably better discussed with more than 140 characters a time (but less than 10,000)

@robinince If you're ever passing through Wolverhampton, coffees (or pints) are on me.

one hour in to being a patron for @dignityindying and I'm already arguing with a pastor

@robinince @dignityindying Why doesn't this surprise me. :-\

@LittleJen62 @robinince @dignityindying Hardly arguing. Some light, not too much heat generated I'd say, surely?

@baptistjon @LittleJen62 @dignityindying I'd say a good mini discussion to be continued

@robinince @baptistjon @dignityindying Ooh good! :-) don't like things getting too hot under the dog collar ;-) xx



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