Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's in a name? A look at the Dignitas 'clinic'...

This is an article that was published on the Care not Killing website in the UK. It is

One of the most depressing aspects of the current furore being stirred up in the media by the pro-euthanasia lobby is the misuse of language. Take, for instance, the Dignitas suicide facility in Switzerland, which is constantly referred to as a 'clinic'. Roger Boyes, in a thoughtful article in The Times, has tried to nail this one: the term 'clinic', he says, 'conjures images of crisp Swiss efficiency, mountain air, a kind of peace'.

'The reality', observes Mr Boyes, 'is rather more shabby. While the organisation maintains a solid air-conditioned head office in a dormitory suburb of Zurich, the location of the assisted suicides is constantly changing. The present address is a second-floor apartment at Ifagstrasse No 12, an urban wasteland about 15 km (9 miles) from Zurich. Down the road is the Globe brothel, which is garlanded with a dozen flags representing the different nationalities of the girls inside. Near by, a Caribbean club, a Greek internet café and, next to the suicide apartment, a place where you can change your car oil'.

Another example is to be found in references to the defeat of the last 'assisted dying' bill in Parliament. We are frequently told that the bill was 'blocked' by the House of Lords. It wasn't: having been debated for eight hours on the floor of the House, it was defeated by a substantial margin (148 to 100 votes). We are told that assisted dying involves doctors giving 'medication' to patients to enable them to commit suicide. Like the word 'clinic', 'medication' has an aura of professionalism and comfort about it. But it's not 'medication' at all – it's a lethal overdose!

Of course, the very term 'assisted dying' is itself a classic example of this process of obfuscation. It has replaced 'euthanasia', which was itself originally a euphemism but has now acquired something of a bad name; and in the same way, what was until 2006 the Voluntary Euthanasia Society has now re-branded itself as 'Dignity in Dying'.

There is an old saying that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. That ought to make us wary when we hear some of the sanitised and comforting phraseology emanating from the pro-euthanasia lobby. There is a need to recognise their product for what it is and not be taken in by new packaging.

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