The pandemic underlined that a happy death, surrounded by loving family members and friends, is a gift not granted to everyone. All too many loved people died in the last year or so without those normal comforts.
On the other side of that coin, many people in unchanging health situations because of lethal injury or terminal sickness are unable to make decisions that recognise the inevitable conclusion of their situation.
The president of the High Court made orders in one such case yesterday. Ms Justice Mary Irvine ruled that artificial life support to be withdrawn from a young woman in a persistent vegetative state for almost 10 years. The order allowed palliative care to be administered so the woman, who suffered a severe brain injury in 2011 following several cardiac arrests, can die peacefully. The unfortunate woman’s mother, supported by her extended family, had sought the orders.
Assisted death, whatever the extent of the assistance or its timing is a polarising issue but one that will have to be considered. It would be more than unhelpful if extreme voices at either end of the argument set the terms of the debate. That, as was seen on so many historic issues, is counterproductive and means important decisions are deferred.
It will require a particular kind of political courage to lead this debate but as recent referendums showed, there is probably an unrecognised, unsatisfied appetite for fundamental change on this increasingly pressing question.