The Discworld author's wife and daughter “understand the situation and, like me, are waiting to see how things go.” For now, he wants to continue living – so that he can keep promoting a right to die: “I'm gonna fight for that one, and I can't fight for that one if I'm dead.”
NPR's profile of Pratchett acknowledged the controversy over assisted suicide – but it passed over the objections of many medical ethicists, who maintain that life itself is never a disease in need of a fatal “treatment.” In the original version of the Hippocratic Oath, which also condemns abortion, doctors swore not to “give a lethal drug to anyone” nor “advise such a plan.”
O'Brien, whose novels chronicle many disturbing contemporary trends, said the modern West has established “a culture saturated with the notion that death is a handy tool for solving social problems,” as shown by the “vast number of human lives” destroyed through abortion and other means.
He explained that the legalization of suicide would establish in law the notion that life has no inherent worth, such that it can be discarded at will.
“To kill a person with Alzheimers, for example, or mentally handicapped infants and children, or to assist a person taking his own life, is saying yes to a deadly lie, and at the same time it permits us to escape a painful situation,” O'Brien noted.
“In the modern age we have been programmed to flee suffering of any kind, or to drug it, to avoid it at all costs.
“I underline the phrase 'at all costs,' because that is where the erosion of the ultimate dignity of man will lead us.”
“In the end,” he predicted, “we will see that the incidents of assisted suicide now occurring in the world, if given legitimization under law, will play a role in leading us all to widespread euthanasia—in other words, compulsory death.”
“The very people who are now chanting 'compassion' may very well find themselves at the receiving end of a lethal injection in the not too distant future.”
O'Brien cited the words of the late British Catholic convert and social critic Malcolm Muggeridge, who reflected during the 1970s that “the delay in creating public pressure for euthanasia has been due to the fact that it was one of the [Nazi] war crimes cited at Nuremberg.”
In his NPR interview, Pratchett spoke of his ideal death scenarios, giving a poignant and superficially appealing portrait of the “death with dignity” that suicide advocates claim as a right.
“You know, with your grandchildren around you, a bit of sobbing,” he imagined. “And you say goodbye to your loved ones, making certain that one of them has been left behind to look after the shop.”
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Pratchett also spoke about a real suicide he witnessed in Switzerland, while working on a BBC documentary. “This gentleman, being a very English gentleman, thanks everybody who was there for coming. And he drunk of the drink, and very shortly after he died.”
But O'Brien insisted that it was never right for friends and family to become accomplices to this taking of life, just as it could never be right for individuals – of any religion, or none – to treat their own lives as a disease.
He emphasized that friends and family, out of love for the terminally ill, must never give spoken or silent consent to suicide.
“I feel sympathy for (Pratchett's) sufferings,” O'Brien reflected. “If he were a family member, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance I would do all in my power to ease his sufferings, but I would not take it upon myself to destroy him or to cooperate in his self-destruction.”
“To be a suicide advocate in any way is to be a participant in murder. Not to act in defense of life, is to act (in complicity). There are no innocent bystanders when the unjust taking of human life occurs.”
In many of Pratchett's own comedic novels, “Death” appears personified as a recurring and sympathetic character – fond of cats and Indian food, tending to his routine of ushering characters out of the imagined universe of “Discworld.”