Three Ways to Make a Difference

Three Ways to Make a Difference

Last week I ended my post by saying I wished Liz Carr had given her audience some ‘next steps’ of things they could practically do if they were concerned about the moves towards legalising Assisted Suicide. That could be considered the pot calling the kettle black, since I then failed to do so myself, so let me rectify that.

Here are some things you can do to make a difference:

1) Be Alert

(As my dad used to say ‘The world needs all the lerts it can get.’)

When you’re watching films, sitcoms, soap operas or dramas, when you’re reading novels or newspapers, when you’re listening to the news or overhearing a conversation on the bus, or chatting in the lunch room, and you hear words like choice, dignity, rights, burden, autonomy etc, pay attention. Note what message they’re being used to convey. How are the people concerned measuring the value of the lives they’re discussing? Has anyone mentioned palliative care? Or, if the topic is abortion, adoption? The words we hear shape the way we think. So do the words we don’t hear. ‘Choice’ and ‘rights’ and the others are consistently used to close down conversations and end discussion. If we don’t force our brains to challenge those notions every time we hear them, we will come to accept them and eventually adopt them.

Talk about these topics with your friends. Listen to their perspectives, share yours, and discuss them lovingly and without condemnation or bitterness.

2) Be Informed

Read stuff, listen to stuff. Thank you for reading my blog; tick that off your ‘to do’ list. Unfortunately there’s nowhere else that I feel confident to point you towards that is consistently helpful on these issues – there is a lot of information out there, but too much of the time the tone with which it is conveyed is harsh, critical and unloving. Do please be alert for those tendencies when reading and deciding whether or not to share posts.

Read news reports and novels, watch films and plays, listen to The Moral Maze – apparently Assisted Suicide is the topic they’ve come back to most often in the programme’s 26 years – here’s their latest episode about it. But they also cover other related issues, like Down’s Syndrome, Population Control and any number of other angles.

Read novels and biographies and other non-fiction books about other cultures. Globally- and historically-speaking it is a strange, localised and very recent idea that the desires and wants of the individual should be paramount in his or her own mind. Most societies have prioritised the needs of the group over those of the individual, and people have subordinated their own desires to the needs of the whole. I have found it really eye-opening to realise that the way we see things here and now isn’t the only – or even the normal – way. Other worldviews are available. (If you’re looking for a place to start, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind was what did it for me. Absolutely fascinating.)

3) Be an (Armchair) Activist

If you’re a marcher, there are plenty of marches and other (peaceful) protests you can sign up to to make your voice heard. I must confess that walking in crowds for hours in the freezing cold holding placards simply doesn’t appeal to me, but thankfully technology has provided me with other ways of letting those in power know my thoughts on issues. I’ve written to my MP asking him to speak up against legislation that threatens the vulnerable, and I’ve prayed for campaigns and my friends who are campaigning, and I’ve signed online petitions, all from the comfort of my armchair. In fact, if you want a really practical way to start right now, the pharmacists could use your help.


Consultation on religion, personal values and beliefs

My cousin Matt O’Brien, himself a pharmacist, wrote to me and several others of his family and friends recently with the following request:

Pharmacists currently have a clause in our code of practice that allows us to refuse to provide a service if it is against our religious or personal values and beliefs. Unfortunately, the General Pharmaceutical Council is proposing to remove this clause.

The Council is running a consultation (here) on their proposed changes and is allowing members of the public to respond. I would really appreciate if you could spend the time to complete it – last time there was a consultation there were only around 275 responses so we have a real chance to make our voices heard.

Better than that, please pray that the Council will decide to maintain the status quo and keep the ethics clause.

What are the implications of this clause, and how does it relate to Assisted Suicide? Matt explained:

The current issue is mainly in the provision of the “morning after pill” – used to prevent unwanted pregnancies for up to 5 days after intercourse. Whatever your opinion on this, with the speed of progress of medical science and changes in the law, who knows what the role of the pharmacist might be in terms of abortion, euthanasia or genetics in the next 10 or 20 years? If we lose the right to refuse, we will be forced to either provide whatever services are required of us or change our career.

The consultation is open until 7th March, and you can save it and complete it later if you can’t get all the way through or (as I did) want to check out some further information part way through.


Thank you so much. Keep reading, keep writing, keep thinking, and keep challenging others’ thinking. Be kind, be gentle, be loving, be respectful, but be willing to raise the questions and help people make informed decisions on the issues, not just knee-jerk, crowd-following ones.


6 Comments On This Topic
  1. Ann Pollock
    on Jan 30th at 11:13 am

    Another excellent, well reasoned blog, Jen

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Jan 30th at 11:16 am

      Thank you!

  2. Katharine
    on Jan 31st at 6:14 pm

    Very helpful Jennie and a good reminder. I was a much better armchair activist in my 20s than I am now – will make a belated New Year’s resolution to do more.

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Feb 1st at 12:05 pm

      🙂 Thanks Katharine!

  3. Cindy Johnson
    on Feb 3rd at 5:01 pm

    The popular novel/movie, “Me, Before You” pops into my mind as an attempt to not just rationalize but actually romanticize suicide. There was such an opportunity for the author to go either way and I was quite disappointed. (I did not see the movie but assume it was the same.) Great post, Jennie!

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Feb 6th at 11:04 am

      Yes, that’s a key one that Liz Carr spent a while talking about – she and some other campaigners went to the premiere of the movie to protest its message. The book is on my ‘to read’ list.


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