Debate continues over the possibility of introducing a law that permits assisted dying, reflected in the recent planned death of a character in Coronation Street.
Cynics fear that the law would slacken in practice so that, as in the case of abortion legislation, it is applied more broadly than was originally intended.
Yet the majority of the public favour giving a mentally-competent, terminally ill patient the right to choose the time and manner of his death should his circumstances become intolerable in his last days.
My brother-in-law has just struggled with watching his mother die slowly and painfully of a cancer that was bound to kill her: a bedside vigil that left both mother and family distraught.
Few would argue that this is right. But some fear that eligibility for assisted death might extend beyond terminal illness, or that, as with the development of abortion, the legislation might be open to interpretation.
Surely this is no reason to write off the whole idea? The 1967 Abortion Act is certainly outdated, but fresh laws governing assisted dying could be very carefully worded and strictly enforced.
Moreover the protection required for the viable foetus does not compare to the protection required for a patient who is close to death.
Lord Falconer, currently piloting his Assisted Dying Bill through parliament, has emphasised that there will be rigorous safeguards to ensure the patient is both mentally fit and terminally ill. And should we not expect our lawmakers to be able to draft a clear and enforceable statute?
Anyone who has been through the harrowing experience of watching a loved one suffer when death is inevitable, would understand the desire to shorten the process humanely.
Similar legislation in Oregon has proven effective. Statistics now available show that in 2013 prescriptions under the Death With Dignity Act 1997 were written for 122 people, 63 of whom died as a result: approximately 2.2 deaths per 1,000. Over 97% were able to die at home, a statistic that speaks volumes about the quality of their end of life.
While we continue to debate, the terminally ill and families continue to suffer worse than any animal in our care. It cannot be right.
The Guardian Report