A breath of fresh air

From time to time in the discussions about assisted suicide and euthanasia, someone speaks into that space from a different and fresh perspective.

A small article in the Newcastlestar news service provided some 'fresh air' recently providing some thoughts from a Canadian Performance Artist and former palliative care cousellor, Stephen Jenkinson. Jenkinson was performing his show: Nights of Grief and Mystery in Newcastle (New South Wales).

He told the Newcastlestar:

"Jenkinson no longer works in the clinical field of palliative care but said in his show he attempts to be "utterly faithful" to what he witnessed while working in the "death trade".

"I translate that into something that might be useful," he said. "If we don't begin with the remarkable poverties around how we are dying, we are very unlikely to recognise them when they visit us and we are more than likely to go along with it as the cost of doing business in the modern age."

"What I am pleading for is there is such as thing as 'our time', it's an idea that is antique now, that you can actually dial it in for when it suits you."

"Dying is first and foremost a mystery, not a problem to solve."

While Jenkinson said that he does not oppose euthanasia, he was critical of the culture around it:

"I would suggest as an alternative to what is going in there is: euthanasia is the prescription for bad dying that a death phobic culture writes for itself," he said.

"In other words, this deep advocacy for euthanasia, which I do understand - the over medicalisation of death and the prolongation of death, I understand it - but I am suggesting that with the legalisation of euthanasia, what we have is the fundamental dilemmas around dying and our understanding of what life is remains absolutely unchallenged, unrecognised.

"This is a solution that maintains the death phobia while promising to fix it. Euthanasia is used as a tool of seizing control of one's own demise, as if we're equipped to do that, as if we are able to do that, as if we have the ability to do that to exert domain over the end of our life."