Euthanasia: Dead End?

“Don’t let me stop; Your great self-destruction; Die if you want to; You misguided martyr!; I wash my hands; Of your demolition; Die if you want to; You innocent puppet! Die if you want to, you misguided martyr…”

With a little tweaking and editing, the words that Pilate spat at Jesus in the rock opera Jesus Christ, Superstar, could be the battle-cry of all those in favour of euthanasia.

At the vanguard of these is Baroness Helen Mary Warnock, who made the news (again!) recently for stating that “Old people with dementia have a duty to die and should be pushed towards death.” The facetious question begs itself – does this mean that people who are affected with dementia when stil relatively young, are to be spared this type of suicide, so that, once they pass the age-related threshold, it could be termed “euthanasia” and lessen the legal ramifications of their actions? Quoted in the Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, Baroness Warnock said that the elderly, if they suffer from dementia, should really consider ending their lives – as they are a burned on both the National Health Service as well as their families.

I was under the impression that people who have dementia are not necessarily bed-ridden, with tubes and catheters going in and out of every orifice, and monitors keeping tack of every bodily function. This, then, means that the people who are in a state as described above would “need to die” even more urgently – and this, of course, includes victims of accidents who may be on the way back to perfect health. Who cares? At this moment, they are “utterly dependent” on others – they are a burden to the Health Service and on their families, albeit not indefinitely or even long-term.

So should these also be led, like lambs to the slaughter towards “a merciful death”? As a corollary – what about people who have different needs? Don’t these, b some stretch of the imagination, “use up” resources too. Don’t all of us, when we are unwell, for that matter? This is yet another route towards the Slippery Slope, and the thin edge of the wedge…. As a matter of interest, I ask – don’t inveterate criminals and paedophiles ruin and waste society’s time too? Ought they not, then, to be decimated?

And what about bummers, professional layabouts, and people live on state handouts from the taxes the rest of us pay? Are these not a blot on society?

This is the logical conclusion of these facetious arguments. And we have not yet started on people with terminal illnesses, and soldiers who return severely injured from wars… Be that as it may, Lady Warnock has arbitrarily decided that people who have lost some of their mental faculties – ah! What about those who have never been mentally stable, then? – are “wasting people’s lives”, because they require care. Therefore, the pat solution, according to this person who, good for her, has not been similarly stricken, is to “lead them” (whatever that may mean) towards the choice of euthanasia.

There is “nothing wrong” in this, she says – but I beg to differ. Everything about this attitude smells of a concoction of eugenics and Final Solution, wrapped up in bubble-pack “living wills” as a buffer.

Lady Warnock’s statements are ambiguous, and very much so – if a person is in mental decline, how can he make an informed decision that it would be better to get out of the way and put others out of his misery? If push comes to shove, and a person is not able to decide whether or not to die, in this worst case scenario- well, then, the next of kin, or the executor (!) of his living will, is just the person to make the decision in his stead. Add this to the rider that Lady Warnock puts – i.e. that they be allowed to choose death even if they are not in pain – and you have a boxful of cans of worms open for your predilection. The whole point of euthanasia is supposed to be to die for your own sake.

But the easy-peasy solution is to pretend to be heroic, and intimate that you are selfless, because you are dying for others. Provided, of course, that you are sentient and aware enough to die for others. Degenerative or neurological diseases do not really help you think clearly, so how can you take such a momentous decision if you are affected by either, or both? There will always be those who argue that the decision is taken by a person before he is “too far gone” – and this means that he can also “change his mind” and not be in a position to indicate this precisely because he will be “too far gone”…. just like the person who jumps off the bastions and decides, midway, that he wants life, not death, after all.

ames Bond had a “Licence to Kill”, which Harold Shipman, now dubbed “the world’s most prolific serial killer”, borrowed whenever he felt like playing God. Now Baroness Warnock actually hopes that there will be people “licensed to put others down” should they be unable to look after themselves. Whatever happened to the words “do not resuscitate”, anyway?

This is the stuff of nightmares – or at least, episodes of Colombo, Matlock, et all where someone saunters into a patient’s room wearing a lab coat, and replaces the saline drip with a lethal potion of insulin or whatever murderers are wont to use…. This is the dramatic side of the coercive or compulsory euthanasia that Lady Warnock is advocating. Inevitably, pro-life groups (ironically, the pro-choice ones have kept mum so far) are using adjectives such as “immoral” and “barbaric” to describe Lady Warnock.

But what makes it all the more worrisome and alarming is that this person is cited in journals ass a moral philosopher, and so what she says is treated as near to gospel truth as does not matter. So if she says a certain category of people have a duty to die, her words carry more weight than do those of a person in this very category who says he does not see it that way… knowing that there is a time to live, and a time to die, and that it not for us to select these times.

It bears reminding that she was behind the British Government’s institutionalised embryo research… perhaps because, just as a person with dementia has no “quality of life”, an embryo is not a “real person I do note, however, that Lady Warnock’s husband’s death was assisted by a doctor, and not by herself, because of the legal consequences she would have faced had she been the one to do it. Having this type of murder embedded in the law would make it so much “easier” for everyone (except for the person who dies). ”.

And, just for the record, I wonder how many people would be deemed “fit to die” simply because of what they would leave behind for others to inherit…

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