Sunday, 27 November 2011

Assised Dying

I had the pleasure last month of attending a talk with Humanist Celebrant Jo Hawes on assisted dying. I have always been a believer in assisted dying but am aware of the complications that surround the subject and I understand that there is never a clear black and white answer, there will always be grey areas.

My blog today will attempt to share some of the information provided by Jo's talk as well as giving you my view on assisted dying and the issues that accompany it.

I would like to use several examples, the first is my Mum's friend Jean who died of Cancer last year (Jo was the celebrant at Jean's funeral). Jean's last few days were described as horrendous and no-one could possibly have wanted to have inflicted such pain on anyone but all the staff could do was administer painkillers to help ease the pain. Could this have been an example of a situation where it was in the patients best interests to be helped to dye rather than suffering an additional last few days of hell?

One argument I tend to use is that we are kinder to animals than humans, I could never watch an animal of mine suffer if I knew there was no way it could get better and I would have no hesitation in making a vets appointment to prevent any prolonged suffering, in one case I had to break the neck of one of my cockatiels as it lay dying, shaking and screeching in pain, although it was not an easy thing to do I felt I had no option. I could counter this arguement with another ill bird who I was about to 'put to sleep' as he had been attacked by chickens but on this occasion I chose not to and the bird went on to live for another 2 years, enjoying his life thoroughly.Was I right in the first instance or should I have let nature take its course?

Jo talked about the Liverpool care pathway and how it is currently used to determine the treatment of dying patients, we talked about how it could be used to help decide when medical professionals could assist a patient to die more quickly if their diagnosis was already terminal and it was believed that the patients last few days or hours would be unbearable. Surely we can get a sensible approach to assess how much quality of life a person has, when someone gets to the point that they can't breathe for themselves, swallow, feed, drink, when they are incontinent and can't voluntarily move their own bodies, when someone reaches this point and they have no hope of getting better then I believe we should be able to assist them with their death.

Some of you may have seen the recent Terry Pratchett documentary on his visit to Dignitas or you may simply have read the media backlash after the documentary was aired:

For me it was sad that a man (Peter Smedley - pictured below) had to travel abroad to kill himself before he was ready to die rather than stay in this country and wait for his condition to worsen. Even more fascinating are the figures that many of those using the Dignitas service have nothing wrong with them, they are simply tired of living. An 84 year old, Nan Maitland used Dignitas to take her own life after saying she wanted avoid the prolonged dwindling of old age, she was not terminally ill but knew that her body was starting to fail and arthritis was worsening.

Picture above of Peter Smedley as he takes his own life in front of his wife in the Dignitas clinic.

Another controversial dignitas patient was ex England youth rugby player
Daniel James who chose to die at Dignitas after becoming paralysed and saying he wasn't prepared for a second class life. Whilst many victims of paralysis go on to have great lives for Daniel 'felt his body had become a prison' and his 'fear and loathing of life was increasing with each day'

So let's get a few facts straight, suicide is not illegal in the UK (it was pre-1960's), anyone can take their own life, although culturally in Britain suicide tends to be frowned upon, in other cultures this can be the opposite e.g. Kamikaze pilots in WW2.  There are also moves within the UK legal system to prevent anyone getting prosecuted if they do help someone to die in circumstances where the patient is terminally ill, Daniel James parents were not prosecuted for taking him to Dignitas.

Do we have a right to die, if you are a Christian you may think not as you are likely to believe that God will decide when it is your time to go and that no-one has the right to take a life. The Christian ethos is also very anti-suicide. As a humanist I do believe that we should have a right to death.

Here is another argument that was presented by Jo during her talk, she used the example of a young child in hospital, their prognosis was not good, they were described as being in constant pain, they had no bladder yet parents and medics fought to keep the child alive eventually creating an artificial bladder that would be of benefit to medical science and would later be of benefit to many individuals; Did this medical breakthrough warrant the child's suffering and poor quality of life?

Perhaps some people fear that by supporting assisted suicide we are making way for greedy families to take the lives of their elderly relatives for financial gain? I think these cases would be and are a minority and we already have existing laws to deal with such offenders.

I do not aim to bring any conclusions to this argument as the answers will vary for different people of different cultures and religion but I do want to the right to die with as much dignity as possible. I would hate to think that time and money would be wasted on keeping me alive if I had no prospect of getting better and if my life was miserable for both me and those around me.

Stay Healthy 

Sam x

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Being Kimberley

I have blogged before about art of dance student Kimberley Liane and her battle with cystic fibrosis. Rather than blog further I thought you would prefer to hear Kimberley's story direct from her. Please read her moving blog.

Big hugs to a very brave bunny :)

Sam x

Saturday, 12 November 2011

UK Road Trip 2011

Over the last week I have seen more than my fair share of motorways and A-roads and travelling on these concrete nightmares seemed less favourable after the horrific crash on 5th November on the M5. However, My husband, Brian and I set off for London on 6th November travelling in the glorious Autumn sunshine via the A303 and Stonehenge.

The trip, which was part of our syllabus filming for the Pole Dance Community,  took us through the centre of London and seemed like a mini capital tour as we drove past many of London's big attractions. We arrived at our destination; Pole Dancing School owned by World Champion Elena Gibson (pictured above left). We were joined by Helen Partridge (pictured above right)  from Pole Control in Essex and we set up our mini studio ready to commence filming. After nearly 3 hours of filming we were ready to hit the road again.

Next stop was London to Northampton to collect a front end for my husbands motorbike and then we continued to Bradford to stop overnight and spend some time with my husband's Mum. On arrival a buffet fit for a king awaited us and we were delighted to know that the first leg of travel was over as well as having the chance to spend some quality family time together.

To make the most of our Bradford stay we decided to take Brian on his first ever Bradford curry experience and where better to go than the Zouk. The Zouk offers a marvellous menu, it is an authentic curry experience with a modern Asian twist.

I had the Palak Tikka (Spicy spinach cakes filled with paneer, potato and sauté mushrooms) to start followed by the Red Snapper (Fillet marinated with herbs and spices then grilled until tender) and both dishes were simply gorgeous leaving me more than satisfied and with no room for pudding!

After our time in Bradford it was back on the road to travel to Pole Devils in Glasgow, Scotland, we set off over the Yorkshire Dales enjoying the unexpected warm weather and keeping our eyes peeled for somewhere nice to stop for brunch. Our journey took us near Clapham conservation village so we decided to stop there and check out Croft Cafe. 

Croft Cafe was a fabulous find, nestled within the picturesque village of Clapham and offering a step back in time to a village that has remained untouched by modern chain businesses and corporate greed. We were greeted by a lady who offered us a table and then presented us with a hand-written menu which included the traditional English breakfast we had been desiring. I think the picture left gives you an example of the exemplary service on offer. The white tea set was perfectly laid with a spare jug of hot water, white and brown sugar allowing each person to make their own perfect brew. 

Next time we are in Yorkshire we will have to revisit the place to not only return to Croft Cafe but also to check out the caves and other wonders of this amazing little village.

As we ventured on up the Motorway we reached the Scottish Border and were seduced by the Scottish Mountains that were bathed in sunlight. As motorways go this is something special. The 4 hour 30 minute journey was actually rather pleasant but we were still relieved to arrive at our destination to film with the lovely Rose Wallace, owner of Pole Devils and the lovely Anne Goswell, owner of Goeswell Pole Dancing School

We got loads of filming done and were spoilt with tea and chocolate biscuits too but after 3 hours of filming it was time to hit the road and travel back to Bradford for some much needed sleep.

On Wednesday it was time for the final leg of our tour as we set off for BodyBarre In Manchester. Unfortunatley a lot of people were unable to attend and this actually worked out to be a good thing as Karen Chaundy's beautiful, chandelier bedecked pole dancing studio was actually to dark to film and we had failed to bring any additional lighting with us. This meant we had an unexpected bit of time to sample the Teapot in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.

The Teapot is a cafe with a difference and it made a refreshing change from the dullness of Starbucks and Costa. I opted for a pot of Tippy Earl grey and Sid opted for an Americano and a Flirty Manchester Tart. The Teapot has a delightful, relaxed ambience and the food looked amazing. Brian went to check out the Rainbow cake!

After our unexpected time off we hit the M6 ready to return to Plymouth, the dark M5 was far less appealing than the sunny A303 or M1. It as so nice to get back on Wednesday evening and to know that we didn't have to do to many more miles in the next few days.

It was a fab road trip and it was so nice to catch up with all the pole dancing instructors who made us feel so welcome throughout. The Fitness pole dancing industry has evolved so much over the past few years and the progress is definitely positive.

Although the trip was work-inspired it was also a chance to sneak in some quality time with my husband :)

We have more syllabus filming to do but for me it is time to focus on judging in Bristol tomorrow for the Bristol Pole Championships, good luck to all those entering.

More news to follow.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x