Letter: The right to NHS care, the fear of growing old

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The Independent Online
From Mr Maurice Clarke

Sir: Nicholas Timmins's excellent article "Out of the window, a lifetime's comfort" (25 February) omitted one topic, which is the terror of growing old today. My generation grew up in the forties and fifties. We were encouraged to provide for our old age while we were healthy and sane. We understood that when we became physically or mentally infirm, the state (with benefits for which we had paid) would take over.

There was no information to alert us that during the Eighties and Nineties the elderly population would grow to the point where the state could not provide. Ministers say otherwise, but no one on the streets believes them. Future generations may have the chance to increase pension provision (if the recession ends), but for us it is too late.

Nevertheless, we have to face our personal futures. I do not want to become a burden to my family or friends, or to the state, which cannot cope; I do not wish to become a "cabbage", like many incarcerated in long- stay hospital wards or nursing homes. When I can no longer read or make intelligent conversation, then the quality of my life will have gone. As Mr Timmins says, I will want to "die quickly and cleanly" - that is my first aim - and "then pass my inheritance on" to my heirs and chosen charities.

On financial matters, I may, as Mr Timmins suggests, find a lawyer who can provide ways in which the state cannot get at my savings (if above £8,000) or sell my home to pay for nursing home care. Many pensioners will not be able to do this.

Or I could deal with both financial as well as psychological matters by choosing euthanasia for my dying, if I can find a sympathetic doctor or a DIY cocktail. It is not an attractive option. I was brought up to believe, and still do, that God should determine the time of my death.

Maybe I shall follow in the steps of my childhood heroes, such as Titus Oates, who left Captain Scott and his colleagues and walked out to certain death on the Antarctic ice in order not to be a burden on the team.

Yours sincerely,

MAURICE CLARKE

Mill Green,

Norfolk

26 February

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