Archive for August 2009

Kill Or Care?

Like many things in life, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone’. In this case – the moral and legal restraints on assisted suicide. They are falling away fast.

 Just over a year ago this article appeared in the Daily Telegraph. It goes leaps and bounds over the usual arguments for ‘compassionate euthanasia’

“The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are “wasting people’s lives” because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.

She insisted there was “nothing wrong” with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society……..

“I think that’s the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you’d be licensing people to put others down.”

Telegraph. Martin Beckford Social Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:59AM BST 19 Sep 2008

Often arguments for assisted suicide are based on hard cases where loved ones are terminally ill and in great pain. Even those of us that oppose assisted suicide find such cases heartbreaking. But Mary Warnock’s proposals are ‘brutal’ (her own terminology, my italics). Let us be clear this would mean that old, frail people who are not economically productive could, even should be killed. Why waste perfectly good time and money on them? But note the same ideas can be used for those with learning difficulties or mental illness. It looks dangerously close to Nazi Eugenics.

For many years people from Britain have been flying out to Switzerland to receive assisted suicide at the Dignitas clinic. Though illegal, no-one has been charged with aiding and abetting a suicide by going to the clinic with their loved one. Most people who go are terminally ill. Recently however a couple from the UK went to die together – even though the husband was not terminally ill. The Times wrote about a ‘suicide of convenience’. This is from the Guardian.

One of Britain’s most respected conductors, Sir Edward Downes, and his wife, Joan, a choreographer and TV producer, have died at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, their family said today.

Downes, 85, was almost blind when he and his 74-year-old wife, who had become his full-time carer, travelled to Switzerland to end their lives, a family statement released to the BBC said.

In general the press was understanding of their decision and praised the couple for their commitment to each other even unto death. Again it would be heartless not to be affected by their circumstances.

There is a transitional phase from life to death and this is usually called dying. The pro-euthanasia lobby claim the right to die, but that has no real meaning given we all die eventually, – it’s not so much a right as compulsory. Perhaps the euthanasia movement would be more accurately described as claiming the right to avoid dying.  They want to go from life to death without the ‘dying’ phase sandwiched in between. Yet if that is so, much can be done to help people who are dying to die pain free and with integrity. It is here that the hospice movement has been so successful.

“Hospice would ideally be the standard of care for treating all patients with advanced terminal illness, regardless of their diagnosis or ability to pay. If this high standard were [to be] applied, and hospice care were made available to all patients, the current clamour for physician-assisted suicide would all but evaporate. We can live until we die, and we can make that transition with dignity.”

“Hospice Care” Martha Twaddle MD “dying with dignity” p189.

Such is the success of the pro-euthanasia lobby that free hospice care for all simply isn’t a significant part of the debate. It is easier and cheaper to kill people. With the ever increasing age of our society and the costs of caring for the frail elderly rising with fewer tax payers to foot the bill, the logic is faultless.  A curious ‘sleight of hand’ can be seen in the recent Royal College of Nursing’s decision to move from an anti-euthanasia stance to being ‘euthanasia neutral’ (whatever that might mean). It is a significant step in the direction of supporting doctors to kill patients, or maybe even euthanasia ‘nurse practitioners’ in the future. Who would want to go into hospital knowing the people who treat you can also kill you if things take a downturn? Incidentally, this decision puts the RCN in the bizarre situation of being neither for nor against a crime that could get someone 14 years imprisonment

When I was a student nurse a colleague in the same hospital was dismissed outright for raising the issue of euthanasia in print. Such days of certainty about the integrity of nursing seems long ago and far away…..

The (RCN) college has now adopted a neutral stance, neither supporting nor opposing a change in the law. Health staff that provide patients with the drugs needed to kill themselves can face up to 14 years in prison. The move comes as a survey for a newspaper suggests 74% of people want doctors to be able to help people to end their lives.

 So there is a storm gathering, one that cheapens and destroys life. Under the headline of ‘compassion’ a movement is growing that seeks to kill the weakest members of society. It is just the ‘thin end of the wedge’.  

The Christian has to make a stand against (what the Pope recently called) this ‘Culture of Death’ in Western world. Human lives are not disposable, we are creatures imbued with dignity by God because we bear the stamp of His likeness (no matter how corrupted that may be). People do not lose that dignity when they are weak, failing, or terminally ill. So the Christian is called to defend the weak and look after the sick and dying.

Finally some wise words from Pastor Gregory Waybright:

“..when I die, I do not want a clergyman affirming my dignity….. but a Pastor simply reminding me of the message of Jesus, ‘He who believes in me will live even though he dies’ for ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’

Philip McMullen. 2009.


1 comment August 1, 2009






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