Bestselling Novelist Terry Pratchett Asks for 'Assisted Death'

The British fantasy author adds a personal appeal to the "assisted suicide" debate

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Terry Pratchett, the U.K.'s top-selling author of the 1990s, is known to millions as the author of the Discworld fantasy novels. He's also become known as an eloquent advocate of what he calls"assisted death." Pratchett's argument is personal, as he himself has Alzheimer's.

Pratchett's lecture to the Royal College of Physicians in London, published in the Guardian this Monday, argues against the term "assisted suicide." The language is, he argues, inappropriate to the "carefully thought-out ... process" of choosing to die. "I have vowed," he writes, "that rather than let Alzheimer's take me, I would take it." Meaning?

I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the Brompton Cocktail some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.

To deal with the obvious difficulties of legalizing "assisted death," Pratchett proposes establishing a tribunal. It would include a lawyer and doctor, and members would be older than 45 because, he says, "wisdom and compassion should in this tribunal stand side-by-side with the law." The tribunal would ensure candidates are "of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life-threatening and incurable disease and not under the influence of a third party." Pratchett ends with a final personal appeal:

I would like to die peacefully before the disease takes me over. I hope that will not be for some time, because if I knew that I could die at any time I wanted, then suddenly every day would be as precious as a million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.