Monday, 13 June 2011

Sir Terry, I Salute You!

The Guardian have reported that Sir Terry Pratchett has started the process to end his own life. It is a rather sensationalist headline, considering that Sir TP still wants to complete the novel he is working on, plus: "Pratchett, the creator of the Discworld novels who was 60 when he was diagnosed, said his decision to start the formal process did not necessarily mean he was going to take his own life."

This news fills me with sadness. Sir TP is a talent that will never be equalled in the field of comic fantasy, satire, and the sheer joy of mocking social trends. His books are absolutely beloved by millions, from the adventures of Tiffany Aching, to the trials and tribulations of one Sam Vimes.

Equally, though, I feel proud of Terry Pratchett. He is currently facing one of the greatest taboos and asking all of us to talk about it in an adult manner. He is bringing death into the spotlight, and asking WHY people are not able to choose the manner of their death.

Currently the manner of birth is chosen, how to celebrate birthdays, how a funeral should be conducted, how a wedding takes place... The only area in which a person is not given complete control is over their death.

This is a particularly grave subject to me because I watched a man I loved very much die in pain and anguish, with all dignity stripped from him. His wife was forced to look after him like a child during his last few weeks. He was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. In his remaining months he helped to trial new prospective treatments - in the end, one of these killed him. He took as much choice as he was allowed; he tried to help other sufferers by using his body as a living experiment - but I feel sure he would have preferred to wrap up his affairs and choose a day to pass quietly and with self-respect intact.

I know this is an enormously delicate subject and we all will have views on the matter, but I, for one, am glad that we are being encouraged to talk about it and make it less frightening a possibility by one of our best-loved authors. His public battle with Alzheimer's, and the fund raising for the connected charity, and, now, his struggle to choose his own death have, in my opinion, benefitted every one of us.

I hate the idea of losing Terry Pratchett. But I would rather lose him while his memory is one of a fiercely intelligent and humorous human being, than of someone who "used to be able to write, who used to be good". I would rather he retained all dignity.

And this is why I say 'Sir Terry, I salute you!' and I am behind him in his battle to die as he chooses.


  1. Yeah, this is a story I've been following since he stated he was fighting the British gov't to allow him to end his life before the alzheimers takes his mind.

    Having seen more than one family member (and one of my gf's family members) succumb to the horrible mind-stealing alzheimers, I for one appluad his fight to die as he sees fit, while his family and friends can still look upon him as he was and not as he may turn to be in the waning stages of the disease.

    It's also incredibly brave IMHO. It takes a significant amount of willpower to want to end ones life early before becoming too sick.

    Thanks for the post Amanda.

  2. I hate to be a pedantic bear, but I'm fairly sure none of us had a say in the manner of our birth. :)

  3. Lots of people's parents will have had a say in the manner of their birth to some extent, though. I agree. I'm a huge fan of Sir Terry, and think he's being incredibly brave and upfront about the whole thing. He is so sharp, witty, and intelligent, that it would be awful for him to lose his dignity.

  4. Just thinking about this makes me sad. Terry is an extra ordinary talent and to lose him at all will be sad enough! This is however a subject I have very clear thoughts on. I don't see why it's not allowed. We're supposed to be a forward thinking nation, but yet on this subject we're still in the dark ages. If you have sat and watched people you love wither away in pain you'll understand that there are some people that just cannot stand it and this is the only plausable action. To jump before your pushed, so to speak. I cannot praise Terry enough. Not only is it admirable, but it's very brave. To be talking so candidly about his own death, it's not something I tend to think about myself. I shall be watching his documentary when it's on.

  5. I really liked your post, especially for the open, dignified and delicate way with which you approach this subject.

    I don't think people will ever agree on the topic of death and how or when to end our lives, but it's so important that we can talk about it, in honesty and with respect for everybody involved.

    Maybe if we'd think and talk about Death more often, we'd be more inclined to live Life to the full.