Going into the good night

David Bullard on assisted dying, with or without the help of the EFF


The touchy subject of ‘assisted dying’ has come up in the UK recently now that Dame Esther Rantzen (aged 83) has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and wants to visit Dignitas in Zurich to spare her family the pain of witnessing a painful and drawn out death. Esther Rantzen was a hugely successful and engaging TV presenter who hosted a programme called, ironically, ‘That’s Life’ for twenty one years from 1973 to 1994. She was due to take part in a Westminster debate on assisted dying on 29th April but has had to pull out because she is too ill.

As I get older I also worry about my final days and, having just spent a couple of weeks visiting a friend in hospital, I’m not sure I would be mentally prepared for a terminal diagnosis of anything nasty.

I’m a pathetic coward when it comes to illness and, while I have huge admiration for those who fight and beat something like cancer, I am acutely aware that most of the final tributes I have read are along the lines of “finally found peace after a long and brave battle with cancer”. As a betting man I would be putting my money on cancer winning in the end, however brave the fight may have been.

Not that I am aware of any looming problems at the moment although, according to all the scare stories in the main stream media, I am a prime candidate for a stroke, a heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney failure, diabetes, liver disease, dementia and probably depression as a result of all the above.

The obvious solution is to poo-poo all the scare stuff and refuse to have a medical check up. All that’s going to happen with a medical check up is that they are going to find something wrong with you, having first checked which medical aid scheme you’re on or whether you are a private banking client.

Having avoided any chronic medication at my age I’m not keen to put all sorts of chemicals into my body every morning. Besides I am on a plant-based diet (red wine) which is apparently excellent for the circulation and for helping you to fall asleep suddenly during the afternoon or halfway through listening to an audible book.

Anyway, I never take my car in for a random check up unless it’s making a strange noise or there’s something obviously wrong so why must I waste a doctor’s time by telling him I’m feeling great but could he/she please check up on me just in case I have no business to be feeling great? These people are busy and they have genuinely ill people to attend to without being pestered by well off hypochondriacs with too much time on their hands.

But, let’s get back to ‘assisted dying’ and why we shouldn’t be so anally retentive about it. Assuming you have no strong religious convictions I can see nothing wrong with deciding that you’ve had enough and want to depart this earthly life. In fact, I imagine quite a few of us might have that feeling after May 29th.

So, frivolity aside, why can’t we decide that we want out without actually feeling ill? Why, for example, can we not decide that our quality of life is no longer conducive to joyous living and make plans for an elegant exit when friends can see you at your best rather than struggling to breathe in a hospital bed.

No question of the balance of the mind being disturbed but simply a matter of having had enough and wanting to leave the party; rather as one might have decided to leave a nightclub at two in the morning in one’s younger days having had enough sensory stimulation.

Apart from removing a huge financial strain from family and, quite possibly the state, this would allow us to leave on our own terms and give us an opportunity to bid goodbye to friends and relatives.

Obviously personal financial matters would have to be cleared up but once SARS had given you the all clear you could distribute your belongings and whatever wealth you had accumulated to the lucky recipients while you were still alive.

This would give you the opportunity to acknowledge the gratitude (or otherwise) of those present. You would also have the opportunity to hear the tributes paid to you which is something you will never know about under the more conventional rules of death. I am giving a tribute speech to an old friend I haven’t seen for at least ten years at her memorial service this week. It will be rather moving I suspect but I would have rather said it directly to her and would have if I had known she was dying.

To only allow ‘assisted dying’ if the applicant is of sound mind (in other words, knows how ill they are) and suffering from something really horrible seems to me barbaric. So my solution is simple.

Anyone can apply for the facility whenever they want. They would have to give a good reason and that would NOT include having just been fingered by the Hawks for a corruption scam or being about to appear in court on a murder charge. The reason could be quite simply that you no longer want to live in this world.

Maybe it’s Taylor Swift’s new album, the wokeness pandemic or social media that has driven you to this conclusion or perhaps it’s that you no longer wish to be a burden on the state but whatever it is your wish would be granted whether you are sound of mind or not.

Then a very short ‘winding up’ process would follow where you settle any outstanding debts, dispose of all your worldly goods and book a final farewell date at a discreet venue. You could order the final party option or choose to go with just a few friends. After the ‘live wake’ you would be taken to a small room playing your favourite music and given a lethal injection by a vet (they’re far more experienced in these matters). What a great way to go.

This would undoubtedly be a vote winner with older voters if any political party had the courage to include it in their election manifesto. Thus far only one party, the EFF, have offered a limited ‘assisted dying’ policy but I’m not sure it’s along the lines I have described above. Still, it’s a start.


One thing is becoming abundantly clear as we approach the 29th May general election and that is most parties haven’t a clue how they would pay for all the wonderful things they are promising the electorate should they be voted into power. Not that the main-stream media are exactly pressing them for details.

Obviously once all the country’s land and assets have been ‘nationalised’ there will be more than enough money in all those formerly white monopoly bank accounts to meet the cost demands of even the wildest promises.

MK’s promise to scrap the pesky old constitution, make everything free and increase a whole range of grants would certainly tempt me to put my cross next to MK if I happened to be experiencing financial hardship and unemployment under the ANC. With the MK run state offering employment at a minimum of R4 500 a month to anybody prepared to work you have to wonder why the ANC haven’t come up with this brilliant idea before.

But it’s the ingenious plan to establish a “lower house of elected representatives, and an upper house of indigenous kings and queens as well as other traditional leaders” which should come as thrilling news to luxury car dealer principals, if not to the rest of us. I can’t immediately think of the name of any traditional leader who has contributed in any way to the country over the past thirty years but I’m sure that’s because they are just modest and publicity shy.

I can confidently predict that an awful lot of equally unrecognisable unknowns will soon be laying historic claim to the title of King of somewhere or other and putting in their order for the bullet proof BMW; preferably one each for the King and Queen.