Uncle is in a busy ward with a variety of other bone-damaged men. Some are young; most are older. One or two are either very old or slightly strange: the man in the next bed yesterday stared, wide-eyed, at me throughout my visit. I'm not sure if he thought I was odd or if I was in his line of view for the television.
As I said, each time I visit Uncle I have to play Find the Patient so his neighbours change but one has stayed in my head.
He is very elderly, not apparently aware and has to have everything done for him including feeding. I watched as the nurse spooned a mushed-up goo into his mouth and reflected on the similarity between very young and very old age.
And I wondered what's the point? He has none of that all-important much-talked-about quality of life and I imagine there is little chance of that changing. In fact things can only get worse. His visitors turn up and sit beside him, reading their newspapers and then going home, having done their duty. It's a drag for them and I suppose, if they allow themselves to think about it, incredibly depressing to see what he has become.
Uncle who has always been very active and has spent his life helping others is finding it very hard to cope with being helped and has been depressed and talking about not wanting to live if this is how it's going to be.
So I've been thinking about euthanasia - leaving aside any of the Christian principles about Thou shalt not kill. I have never been entirely convinced that it is wrong in every circumstance and if life is empty then maybe it is a reasonable alternative.
But then I looked again at the old man being fed. The nurse didn't have to force his mouth open. He was aware enough to open it, eagerly even, suggesting he understood this at least, maybe even felt hungry or conscious of a need for something.
How easy it would be, if euthanasia were legal (and I'm aware that there would be all sorts of conditions that would have to be fulfilled) for unscrupulous relatives to take advantage to rid themselves of a burden. Even for loving and protective children to see it as being in their parent's best interest. 'He wouldn't want to live like this.' And those conditions could in time be relaxed as euthanasia became an acceptable option.
But quality of life is different for everyone. A man in a wheelchair all his life will have a different idea of what makes his life worth living than a high-achieving athlete or even me. We all find our level according to what is realistically possible.
In a very short period of time, basically as long as it took for the man to be fed, I changed from, 'Well, yeah, why not?' to 'I would not want to make that judgement. I don't have the right. I am not God and nor is anyone else.' However I notice that trending on facebook today we have Katie Something or other's comments about there being too many old people and there should be euthanasia vans; now that possibly is one judgement about someone's value to life that I would be prepared to make.