Saturday, 12 February 2011

Politicians feel the pain and discomfort of assisted suicide

That rapidly ageing scribbler Ian McEwan is again pushing the idea of legalizing assisted suicides. This morning, he gave an interview in the Telegraph, calling for an overhaul of suicide laws "allowing terminally ill patients to receive medical help to die".

Ironically, legislators across the world are rejecting bills to make it easier to dispatch the terminally ill. The "End of Life Assistance" Bill in Scotland was comprehensively defeated. The Canadian Parliament rejected a similar draft law. Likewise, bills legalizing euthanasia in South Australia, New Hampshire and France were all defeated. Even the European Court of Human Rights offered a rare moment of legal sanity, ruling that there was no "human right" to suicide.

In this permissive age, it is curious why euthanasia has struggled to achieve legal acceptance. I suspect that parliamentarians across the world understand the long-term agenda behind this campaign to liberalize euthanasia.

Stripped of its misleading poetry, such as "dying with dignity" and " making a good end surrounded by people they love", liberalization means a Harold Shipman-like killer approaching the hospital bed of a lonely old person with the syringe.

Where euthanasia has been liberalized, hospitals have become frightening places for the old. In the Netherlands, old people now feel the need to write letter explicitly that they do not want to be murdered if they enter a Dutch hospital.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see the where euthanasia might take us. Twenty years from now, the huge proportion of Europeans will be over 80. Even with the best case scenario, these people will not be working. In terms of health care and pensions costs, the old will pose a huge fiscal burden.

Therefore, it is perhaps understandable that these legalized suicide bills are having such a difficult time. Parliamentarians across the developed world are out that funny age called early middle age. Fast forward 20 years, and it will be their generation lying in a hospital bed terrified of their medical carers.


bill said...

...old people now feel the need to write letter explicitly that they do not want to be murdered if they enter a Dutch hospital.

Got some supporting evidence for that rather bold statement. Where euthanasia is legal in Europe its an opt-in process, NOT opt-out.

You clearly don't understand the difference between palliative care and euthanasia.

Anonymous said...

The dutch and euthanasia of infants. I would love to see someone explain how an infant can give informed consent for euthanasia:

Anonymous said...

Get informed Bill...

Groningen guidelines, which govern medical murder in the Netherlands.....

When the person to be euthanized gives his or her consent, the line of contention rests between the innate value of human life (and the chance that consent will not be informed) and what control an individual should have over his or her ultimate fate. That, in my estimation, is a legitimately contested debate.

Groningen’s guidelines, however, involve the actual medical homicide of individuals who can’t protest or defend themselves. I have no doubt that if the Groningen Protocol becomes official, parents who don’t want to contend with raising a disabled child will have their baby or young child euthanized, even if the baby has a fighting chance at a meaningful life. Likewise, family members who fear the burden of coping with a disabled or comatose loved one will seek his or her involuntary euthanasia out of their own self-interest.

Anonymous said...

Some more links on Euthanasia in the Netherlands....

Anonymous said...

Having watched my father die over 11 months, in agony and begging for release. (To my eternal shame I prolonged his suffering by refusing to administer a lethal morphine dose.) I cannot imagine the pain and shame he felt but I can assure you I am not brave enough to go through the same. Voluntary euthanasia get my vote every time. There is no dignity and no compassion in our current laws.

mark said...

I think one possible solution may be for Parliament to pass a law expressly prohibiting euthanasia and publicly confirming that society considers that the elderly are valued - but that in practice doctors are given wide discretion in terms of palliative care such that patients don't have to die slowly in pain over a year [ie. effective euthanasia for those that desperately want it].

The prohibition against euthanasia could be publicised so that the elderly don't feel the need or duty to offer to have themselves killed to save societies resources.

This solution relies on the government passing laws which are then ignored or enforced selectively which I used to think was absolutely terrible but I think it could work here.

This approach is similar to the approach taken to prostitution in a very wide range of countries. Prostitution (or atleast being a prostitute) is made illegal [which sends a message that society doesn't condone it and at the margins probably reduces the amount of activity] but the police by and large don't enforce the laws as most cities seem to have a more or less open red-light district.

With this approach doctors would have to have some confidence that they weren't going to be prosecuted but we should still be able to create a system which has as its core principal the right of the elderly to live and yet also have compassion for those elderly nearing the end of their lives in pain.

Alice Cook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bill said...

@anon 18.23

I am informed, having lived in the Netherlands I prefer the truth rather than some yank paper spouting an ultra-right wing Christian extremest point of view.

Anonymous said...


Anon 18.23 here.

First of all, I'm glad to read that you prefer the truth.

Second, simply attacking someone being American, right wing, and Christian doesn't constitute a coherent argument.

It is also pretty sad that you've come to think of Christianity as being extremist, given the cultural heritage of what I believe to be your homeland, Britain.

Now the specifics, do you think the following developments are morally acceptable?

The killing of terminally ill children by doctors, without the consent of the children involved.

Would anorexic woman make an acceptable candidate to euthanasia?

Is it acceptable for someone suffering from depression to become a candidate to euthanasia?

How do you feel about the campaign to further liberalise euthanasia in the Netherlands to cover people over 70 who are "tired of life"?

Whether somebody wants to end their life is one question. Whether the medical profession should actively assist people committing suicide, seems to me at least, to be morally reprehensible.