Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who will judge whose lives are worth living?

The UK media has been fussing and promoting assisted suicide and trips to Switzerland. Recently Terry Pratchett, a famous writer, has paid to establish a "government committee" to promote assisted suicide that is comprised of members of the suicide lobby.

An article on Sunday April 17, in the Sunday Observer by columnist Barbara Ellen challenges the media promotion of assisted suicide.

Ellen responds to the showing of an assisted suicide death on TV in this way:

The filming of the death seems secondary – for me, it has the opportunistic whiff of a medicalised snuff movie, but that's just my opinion. No one is forced to watch, just as no one is forced to watch all the births on television these days.

There are bigger issues at stake, not least the arrogance of the pro-euthanasia able bodied towards the profoundly ill – the unseemly rush to pronounce the lives of others "not worth living". A recent study discovered that some sufferers of locked-in syndrome – as many as three out of four of the main sample – were happy and did not want to die. Such studies are flawed (some sufferers are unable to articulate either way), but it should still give us pause for thought before blasting off about "lives not worth living".

Likewise the knee-jerk: "They wouldn't have wanted to end up like this." Of course not – who would? – but that might not be the end of the story. How individuals feel when they are fit may change considerably when their health fails. Like those with locked-in syndrome, they may adjust to a life that is very different, often difficult, but just as precious. Who are we to judge?
Ellen responds the religious critics of euthanasia in this way:

Personally, if I ever get something nasty, I'd rather be with a God-botherer than somebody who decides I'm looking peaky, books a Swiss flight and whisks me off to the ghouls at Dignitas.
Ellen challenges the euthanasia lobby directly by stating:

One reason we don't have the death penalty is that there is no guarantee that mistakes would not be made. Who could guarantee that mistakes wouldn't be made with euthanasia? Not all seriously ill people can communicate their current wishes (not necessarily the same as when they first became ill). And no one else should be deciding for them, in worst-case scenarios "putting them down" against their will.
Barbara Ellen is a breath of fresh air who is willing to ask the difficult questions with realistic answers.

1 comment:

Hugh Vincelette said...

The title of this article is interesting.The first job I had after high school was working in the provincial institution for the mentally retarded (challenged, today).Most of our residents were at the level of the severely or profoundly retarded. They were given excellent care. there was never any question that they shouldn't have survived.I can tell you, though, of a segment of society that stood in judgement of whose lives were worth attempts at saving from a catastrophic illness.Through the years, I buried 57 good friends who were denied even a fighting chance at survival.I refer, of course, to conservative Christians who lobbied hard & fast in opposition to the use of public funds for medical research into HIV.Their actions resulted in a serious delay in the development of effective treatment options.Consequently, thousands were assured of death.