Features

A licence to kill - the slippery slope of 'assisted dying'

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

A couple of years ago I contacted Holland’s top pro-euthanasia organisation. Our House of Lords looks likely to approve a bill legalising euthanasia here, I told them. ‘Very exciting!’ came the reply.

Next month Parliament will again be discussing ‘assisted dying’, and although the tone of the British debate is not yet quite like the Dutch one, a shift in tone has undoubtedly occurred. In the past few years euthanasia has been renamed ‘assisted dying’ and become part of the ‘progressive’ cause. As two assisted dying bills, including Lord Falconer’s, come back to Parliament, the onus seems to have moved away from supporters having to explain why people should be killed before nature takes its often-ugly course on to opponents of euthanasia explaining why they could conceivably wish to prolong anybody’s suffering. As Dignity in Dying puts it in one of their advertisements, this is about letting people safely control ‘the manner and timing of their death’.

This week the Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall backed assisted dying, telling an interviewer, ‘I believe in giving people as much power and control over what happens to them as possible.’

The House of Lords has proved an especially good place to debate this. Many members have friends or spouses who have experienced the miracles of modern medicine and endured the prolonged indignities that can be a side-product of that blessing. Most lords belong to a lucky generation, having won the full panoply of rights. The right to education and welfare were followed by sexual liberation, which from the 1960s onwards came with the idea of having total rights over one’s own body, including the right to abort unwanted fetuses. It is partly in this language that Lord Falconer’s bill comes wrapped: the baby-boomers awarding themselves one last right — the ‘right to die’. Press commentators have taken up the cry: ‘Nobody can tell me what to do with my body.’

Of course there are religious objections to this. ‘I have set before you life and death,’ God says in Deuteronomy, ‘therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.’ For centuries that edict — ‘choose life’ — defined the ethics of our people. Along with ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Many euthanasia enthusiasts see themselves as bringing the law into line with a post-religious society. But those who are not religious can still have many philosophical objections to euthanasia. If society comprises, as Edmund Burke said, a contract between the dead, the living and those not yet born, should it not disturb us to sever that contract at both ends? There is, after all, the greatest difference between deciding to take your own life and having the law help you do so. We do not live on islands of absolute solitude. What you choose to do with your body might very well have an effect on what someone else does with theirs.

The principal objection to euthanasia is a slippery-slope argument — and many people profess to disdain such arguments. Nevertheless, anyone doubting the slipperiness of this slope should consider the places where euthanasia is already legal.

As with today’s debate, the movement for reform of the abortion laws 50 years ago was driven by attempts to avoid heart-breaking personal tragedies. Yet, as Mary Wakefield once wrote here, the tone has so shifted that the aborting of unborn children is now generally presented — far from the infinitely sad and rare necessity that the 1967 Act accepted it to be — as a kind of triumph. Not to mention a matter of convenience. Today almost one in five conceptions in Britain end in an abortion.


Meanwhile, anyone who decides that aborting fetuses is slippery while killing off elderly people is not has clearly not studied those places where euthanasia has been legalised. The Falconer bill is based on legislation passed in the American state of Oregon 20 years ago, but its timing could hardly be worse. Just this week, one of Oregon’s most senior doctors, Professor William Toffler, declared the legislation a ‘disaster’ which has, among other things, led to ‘a profound shift in attitude toward medical care’ and fundamentally changed the relationship between doctors and patients. But perhaps Lord Falconer’s supporters are fond of citing Oregon because they know that the precedents geographically and culturally closer to home do not assist their argument.

Holland’s euthanasia debate really started in the 1980s, when members of the medical profession were bolstered by legal verdicts supporting the practice in very specific circumstances. Early advocates had a list of ambitions, including the ‘mercy killing’ of disabled people, though in time the arguments came packaged in more humanitarian language. But as one lifelong Dutch critic of euthanasia tells me, ‘They always have a next step.’

In retrospect, Holland’s next steps look inevitable. Doctors who helped kill their patients were tried, but even when found guilty often went unsentenced. Judges asked for guidance and the public prosecutor developed guidelines (no further treatment possible, must be voluntary) within which there would be no prosecution. By the 1990s, parliament began considering a bill to clarify the matter. But already, tied up with the dementia and cancer sufferers who constituted the majority of those wishing to die, there were harder cases. There was the case of a depressed woman in Haarlem who received the assistance of her psychiatrist in helping her to die. In 2001, the Dutch parliament signed euthanasia into law. On its passing, the former health minister, Els Borst, who had steered the bill through parliament, quoted Jesus’s last words: ‘Het is volbracht’ (‘It is finished’).

Dutch doctors could now legally assist the deaths of terminally ill patients (usually using an injection of barbiturate followed by poison). But demand continued to stretch the law. In 2002 the main pro–euthanasia group in Holland, the NVVE, ‘started operating’. With a network of professionals and volunteers across the country, this four–decade-old group (145,000 members ‘and growing’) now deals with around 4,000 cases a year where ‘the normal procedure via the doctor cannot be achieved’. This includes advice on which drugs to take.

The problem, an NVVE press officer told me, is that a doctor can say no. Those who are turned down by doctors can apply to other clinics. Does NVVE ever say no? Yes, if the criteria aren’t met or patients refuse to hand over medical files. And what cases mainly come through their doors? Terminal cancer, obviously. People with ME. Older people are most common. Their oldest patient was 100. Their youngest? ‘In his thirties.’

Though ‘a lot has been achieved’, there is ‘still work to do’. Like most euthanasia advocates, NVVE remains concerned with advancing the borderline cases. Dementia is a problem. People can be locked into an agreement if they sign a form which replaces the oral ‘OK’ when the patient is no longer able to speak. In 2011, 49 people with dementia were euthanised. But the timing is difficult. People might have decided they do not want to die after all, but be unable to speak. Yes, I was told, some people may have ‘died before they really wanted to’.

Then, of course, there is mental illness. Dutch law now blurs any difference between physical and mental illness. In 2011, 12 people with psychiatric problems were helped to die, being ‘firm in their wish to die, and lucky’. Why ‘lucky’? ‘Because they may be locked up in an asylum if they say they want to die.’ By 2013 the numbers had swollen; 42 people with psychiatric problems and 97 people with dementia were euthanised or assisted in their suicide. The line between being suicidal and wishing for euthanasia is ‘very hard to decide’.

And then there are the people with ‘tired of life’ syndrome. This is euthanasia for those who are ‘not necessarily ill, but they suffer from being old and having done everything they want to. And they see society is changing around them.’ A number of groups I spoke to in Holland are campaigning for a single pill to be made available for people with this condition. Some want it available for all ages. One tells me the age limit should be 18. Others won’t set an age. Next door in Belgium, the parliament last year passed a bill to extend euthanasia to children, with no age limit, if the child is terminally ill. Belgium passed its first euthanasia bill a year after Holland, and people who are ‘suicidal’ can also now apply for euthanasia there. Two years ago a female-to-male transsexual whose sex change operations left scarring was euthanised by the same Belgian health service that tried to make him a man.

Regarding possible pressure on old people, who may feel they have become a burden, NVVE tells me: ‘We don’t know how to make specific rules for this.’ Prevention of profit from a death is already written into law. A doctor told me that, because Britain does not have euthanasia, he notices his British colleagues can provide far better palliative care than the Dutch now do.

Having been told about the ‘tired of life’ pill, it began to interest me. Could I see one? What would happen if I did? Would I have that sensation you sometimes get on a balcony or cliff edge? Might I feel tempted to snatch it from the doctor’s palm and gobble it down? I hoped to find out at the coastal clinic of Dr Sutorius, a likeable and laid-back man. Did he register my disappointment that his waiting room and surgery were so like any other? We went back to his house, where the grouting is new, and I met his beautiful family. His wife brought drinks.

‘You just meet the problem,’ he tells me. ‘As a doctor it comes to you.’ When he began working in the 1980s, he felt that doctors were on their own. Opponents of euthanasia tell me doctors hate doing it because it so fundamentally alters their relationship with their patients: bringing death not life. Is this the case? Dr Sutorius is still upset by his own experience. In the 1990s, when the law was still fuzzy, he assisted a patient in a ‘tired of life’ case. ‘Suffering doesn’t mean you have a disease that is lethal,’ he says. The doctor was prosecuted, though his practice supported him through a legal battle that lasted nearly five years. He said he never had any sense of stepping over any line. Like other doctors he had considered earlier cases — like the depressed lady in Haarlem — as precedents. Nevertheless he was worn down by the trial: ‘Medicine is about trust, law is about distrust.’

‘All of the cases cause difficulty,’ he told me. Though many more patients want to talk about it than go through with it, it is an option. On those rare occasions — perhaps now no more than once a year — when he heads by arrangement to a patient’s house, ‘You feel like the loneliest person in the world.’ Nevertheless, he said, ‘I like my job. I like to help people ease their suffering. And I always hope the patient dies naturally.’ Are families a problem? He finds that children often object when told of their parents’ decision. He prefers the family to know in advance. Since the law changed, he feels there is better support for the profession. And the practice may yet be booming. ‘Now we have all the 1960s people coming towards us.’ It is in tune with their philosophy, he said: ‘The right to live your life as you like it.’

I think continually about this. Perhaps this will become the dominant vision of life in Britain, as it has in Holland and Belgium. But I cannot wish for it. There’s the slippery slope, the uncertain old who may feel pressured, the pathetic cases of depressed teenagers choosing death, and the shift in meaning it brings to life as well as death. Also, a line keeps recurring to me: the penultimate scene of Lear, at the darkest midnight of the play. Blinded and already having failed to kill himself once, Gloucester insists he can go no further. It falls to Edgar to urge his father on:

‘Men must endure
Their going hence even as their coming hither.
Ripeness is all.’

Gloucester lives for only a few more minutes. But the moments he has left, after he is persuaded to get up, turn out to include the moment in which he discovers everything.

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Show comments
  • King Zog

    ‘Last rights’ indeed…

  • Franks Trate Writes

    The legalisation of euthanasia is appalling. This what Harold Shipman was doing. Euthanasia is a Nazi policy that targets the old, the weak, the poor, the sick, the depressed and the handicapped. Just clearing them out of the way like old rubbish…it cheapens human life and demeans the human being, Nobody should “assist” another person’s dying. If they wish to stop their own medical treatment, that is their right, but if anyone helps them to die, that is murder. It is totally against the ethics of the medical profession and any doctor who does it should be struck off.
    I suggest you keep abortion out of this discussion as it is already emotive enough. The recent revelations about Planned Parenthood in USA speak for themselves.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Indeed, and the doctor above who is, shockingly, in favour of it presents the reason why it should not be. He says “Medicine is about trust…”, but how can anyone have trust ‘for life’ in a doctor who is killing people?

    • red2black

      So other people’s extreme and prolonged suffering is fine, just as long as your own conscience is clear.

      • Helen Wood

        You pro-killing lot just want the sick killed so you don’t have to care for them or so you can inherit faster.

        • red2black

          Pro-killing? I’m not in favour of killing anyone. I’m a bit long in the tooth to be inheriting anything.

    • Fred Uttlescay

      “The legalisation of euthanasia is appalling. This what Harold Shipman was doing.”

      He had consent from his victims? Really?

    • Ordinary Man

      Surely human life is cheapened every day for millions of people by political systems that prevent individuals from choosing to end their lives when and how they wish. This sort of suffering obviously appeals principally to people driven by religious fanaticism

      • Oliver Pereira

        Religious fanaticism? Odd that you would claim that in a comment on an article titled “The atheist case against ‘assisted dying'”. Opposition to assisted suicide is not about the appeal of suffering, and it is not about religion. It is about wanting to help people who are suicidal to value their own lives, no matter who they are and what their condition is.

        If a healthy and able-bodied person is found at the edge of a cliff, to “assist” them would normally be taken to mean talking them out of it. But when it comes to people who are physically disabled or mentally ill, to “assist” them suddenly means, metaphorically, pushing them towards the edge. The motivation behind this double standard is clear.

        Human life is cheapened when you make its value dependent on whether or not the person is healthy, and whether or not they are able-bodied. Suddenly it becomes a case of, “All humans are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

      • Roger Hudson

        This is not about people exercising informed choice and free will to kill themselves, this is about killing someone else, homicide not suicide.

    • JabbaTheCat

      You seem to have trouble distinguishing between the actions of outright murderers like Shipman and the Nazis over their involuntary victims and people wishing to end their lives by exercising freedom of choice to do so…

      • Helen Wood

        If someone truly wants to die, they cannot be kept alive. Euthanasia is murder.

      • Roger Hudson

        Assisted dying is killing, not suicide, by logical definition.
        Everybody who does a ‘mercy killing’ needs to be judged by a jury of their peers in possession of all the facts.

  • cartimandua

    Douglas go and ask doctors about the reality of end of life suffering. The antis will tell you that “good palliative care” makes everything fine and if not they can sing Kumbaya and then its fine.
    Its a lie.
    There are a lot of people whose symptoms are intolerable and irremediable.
    Assisted dying only protects teams of doctors being courageous when they relieve suffering.
    Get the state out of the relationship between patients and teams of experts.
    Otherwise “not me gov” leads to horrible deaths and family traumas which never go away.
    And by the way legal abortion means women don’t become lesser human beings when pregnant.
    The USA has a maternal death rate like Belarus.

    • Tom M

      I would agree wholeheartedly with that but the problem remains as to how it is regulated as regulated it must be. Douglas Murray’s article only highlights the difficulties facing legislaters and his conclusion suggests he doesn’t like the idea at all.
      As he acknowledged you only have to look at the way abortion has moved from something to be done in exceptional circumstances (a principle I agree with) to become a method of contraception for an awful lot of people. That would undoubtedly be the case for assisted dying also.

    • Mary Ann

      That’s because they don’t have an NHS and people cannot always afford the proper medical care.

    • Douglas Redmayne

      I agree. Murrays ‘ politics are not motivated by compassion but by spite

  • jeremy Morfey

    There are quite a few people I know, including a few of the hotheads here, who would like to see the back of me. Most don’t care either way, but I fancy my chances of staying alive should it come to a vote about as much as I fancy Andy Burnham’s chances of being the next PM. It is one character feature of being British is that I can be assured that nothing the NHS can give me will be particularly effective, and I am sure that if they intended to do me in, they’d mess it up and I’d live to be 100.

    Not all doom and gloom though. Worcestershire Royal Hospital, starved of funds by a bungled or corrupt (can’t make up my mind which) programme of PFI, so that its former hospital grounds could be sold off to developers, mercifully ended the life of an old lady friend of mine, in constant pain with arthritis and an active (but hardly sustainably active) supporter of Exit. Neither her family nor her GP were prepared to put her out of her misery, and the trip to Switzerland was all too much for her. In the end, she had a minor fall which ended her up in Worcester’s A&E who promptly (well target promptly anyway) dispatched her under anaesthetic. Not perhaps what they should have intended, but all worked out in the end.

  • BillRees

    No doubt someone will start a movement seeking a pardon for Harold Shipman, before he is canonised as a saint who was ahead of his time.

  • pobjoy

    Of course there are religious objections to this.

    Of course! That is, Christian objections. Not Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or Taoist objections. Confucius, he say nothing.

    Not papal cult objections, either. Oh, no. Not here.

    There have to be ‘fundamentalist’, spoil-sport, Christian objections. Is there much purpose to this publication if it cannot misrepresent today the faith that forced into pale imitation the paederasts of ancient Rome?

    A few years ago, it was made clear that there was no biblical objection made to suicide. Israelites ‘committed’ suicide, with not a hint of divine or human displeasure or disapproval. It was said that ‘Christian’ objections were actually due to the rich of feudalism and capitalism attempting to secure the workforces on which their prosperity depended. Very understandable; predictable, even.

    But clever Doug, in the meantime, has come up with a brainwave. Clever, fundie Douglas, who knows that there are no atheists. But reader, you must choose whether to laugh, or cry, at infantile genius.

    ‘I have set before you life and death,’ God says in Deuteronomy

    That’s spiritual life and death, Dougie, baby. When you’re older, you’ll understand.

    Along with ‘Thou shalt not kill.’

    And get mummy to buy you a new Bible, Dougie. Then, in time, she can explain to you that here the word ‘kill’ means ‘murder’. And the idea of assisted death is that it is not murder, which is what those clever, adult politicians are thinking about. You’ll understand, I expect.

    • Ivan Ewan

      I will now derail you with two words:

      Define “murder”.

      • pobjoy

        I will now derail you

        Why would you want to do that?

        • Ivan Ewan

          Because you were arrogant and offensive. Even more than I am. Derailing your argument by making your stop and think about the abstraction of how we define murder – and having to explain why euthanising people can’t be considered murder, or else eating your words, humbly or with bluster – would go a little towards further brightening my already fantastic day.

          • pobjoy

            Because you were arrogant and offensive. Even more than I am.

            Oh, dear. So you want to be top arrogant offender. Well, I’ll leave you to it!

            having to explain why euthanising people can’t be considered murder

            That’s not at all what you asked, is it.

            Suicide and attempt at suicide have been legal in the UK since 1961. So why should assistance to complete a lawful action be illegal?

            Notes.

            a) Considerations of motives in potential assistants is a side issue.

            b) Don’t forget to make your reply as arrogant and offensive as possible.

          • Ivan Ewan

            a) you still haven’t bothered to define murder, and instead switch like a schizophrenic between an appeal to religion and suddenly now an appeal to law. Why? Because you cannot now defend free-for-all euthanasia on the religious grounds you so cockily held, and being a dunderhead you imagine that nobody will notice.

            b) mission accomplished.

          • pobjoy

            b) mission accomplished.

            Which makes Ivan’s second post a lie. The first was obviously inane; unless Ivan did not realise that suicide has not been illegal for over fifty years. The great majority of UK citizens therefore cannot remember its illegality. But Douglas cannot be unaware, and he must be aware that his completely unjustified, to say nothing of infantile, attack on Christianity only bellows his own tedious sense of guilt. The irony is that the religion that declared suicide sinful is that now not entirely unassociated with the Spectator, so Douglas in desperation had a go at its great foe; thereby making a perfect junk of his reputation, for any intelligent and honest readers.

            But you’re just too thick to post, Ivan; you’re a danger to others, as well as yourself. Take up fishing, while the weather’s still nice. That will save you from having to rescue yourself with lie upon crazy, obvious lie.

            The real motive for Ivan’s posts is personal, and due to guilt. Guilt due to homosexuality, Ivan? You’re one of very many, if so.

          • Ivan Ewan

            OK, you’re going on my mental file, under T for “troll”. You must be, nobody’s as stupid as you make yourself sound.

          • pobjoy

            Gotcha.

  • A very well written article Douglas. Thank you. To add, here are some more stats showing how Belgium, Holland, Switzerland have all regularly disregarded with impunity, the same assisted suicide “safeguards” that the UK is also proposing.

    In Belgium, 50% of euthanasia nurses admit euthanising without consent, despite this being completely illegal, simply because the doctors thought it was in patient’s “best interests”. In Holland, 20% of those who request suicide receive excess pressure from family members to kill themselves, for being a financial or emotional burden. People in Switzerland are requesting suicide for treatable conditions like arthritis or kidney disease. The “safeguards” are supposed to prevent all these from happening, but they have not, with tragic consequences for all of these societies. This research paper further explains how AS has always badly failed.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070710/

    Abortion once legalised for supposedly very extreme circumstances, has blown up to kill 1.3 billion people in only the last 35 years, more deaths than all the genocides in world history combined. Euthanasia has already shown itself open to be completely and utterly abused in the same way and thus it must be opposed.

    • Very interesting post. People gravely under-estimate the desire of doctors to ‘cure’ patients any way they can; many feel compelled to provide ‘treatment’ even if they know it will do no good. There are also millions (not thousands) who are easily subject to persuasion on the most serious matters: One day they would give the answer ‘yes’ and another ‘no’ to the same question. Mass euthanasia = genocide.

      • TrulyDisqusted

        “Mass euthanasia = genocide”

        Yes, but they won’t need to hide it next time in clearings in the forest in remote parts of Europe.

        They’ll televise it on pay per view and convince us that it’s for the greater good.

      • Zanderz

        When the NHS middle managers come under financial pressure, what better way to balance the books then ‘assisting’ the removal of those costly patients.

        • Fred Uttlescay

          You two judge everyone by your own dismal moral standards.

          • Zanderz

            Unfortunately dismal moral standards is what the world always desends to.

          • Helen Wood

            Wanting to have people put down shows far worse moral standards.

          • Fred Uttlescay

            Who wants to do that?

          • Roger Hudson

            You must not know the real world.

        • Zalacain

          That is more of an argument against the NHS rather than against assisted dying.

          • Zanderz

            True in a way. It’s a matter of policy in action. When the NHS are ‘assisting’ people to death for certain illnesses, what is the motivation for keeping people alive with those illnesses? I can see a time when the NHS will say – “for those illnesses we will treat you, for these others, we will only ‘assist’ you to death.”

            If you want treatment for the ‘assisting’ ones, one would have to go private.

          • doctorfloyd

            It’s not a very good argument against the NHS. The same argument could be used, and probably with more justification, against private healthcare companies keen on maximising their profit. It’s what they do now – take the easy ops, and leave the NHS with the expensive ones.

          • Zalacain

            The NHS patients are not the people who (directly) pay for it. Therefore, doctors and nurses may not feel the same amount of responsibility to the patient than to their paymasters.
            In a private hospital the patient and the person who pays are one and the same, allowing patients to demand a level of care that is no possible in a state system.
            Also, if the government is not directly part of the system it can better oversee the correct application of the law and patients’ rights. It is very difficult to be referee and player in a game.

    • Roger Hudson

      The abortion issue is so important it should be looked at without bundling it with mercy killing.
      I could point out that other law changes than legalised abortion have also been a small measure of importance used as a wedge in a door leading to a stampede, i think the 1967 law on ‘two man homosexual acts in private’ is another example.

  • Paul Moylan

    If we just start killing off the incurable it somewhat diminishes the urge for medical advancements, perhaps in the future doctors will patrol the wards with shotguns.

    I joke, but I seriously don’t know where I stand on the issue and I fail to see how people can be so polarized on it, My mother is very ill and I don’t want to see her suffer unnecessarily. Not speaking from experience, but surely suffering is better than oblivion. Being an atheist generally means accepting nothingness awaits you after death, is something always better than nothing? I want to say yes, but then I have yet to see a loved one suffer.

    • pobjoy

      surely suffering is better than oblivion

      Like debt is better than breaking even.

      • Paul Moylan

        That comparison doesn’t work.

        • pobjoy

          Perhaps you’ll let us know why, when you have a moment.

          • Paul Moylan

            Us? It just doesn’t, it’s a nonsensical contrast. Oblivion is to being financial neutral what debt is to suffering? it simply doesn’t make sense. I don’t know how else to put it I’m afraid.

          • pobjoy

            You’re lying, Paul. You don’t believe that there is any oblivion, after death. You believe, as does Douglas, that you will have to give account for what you have said and done in this life. And, like Douglas, you want to put off that day of reckoning as long as possible.

          • Paul Moylan

            Well this conversation just got pretty weird, allow me to counter your claim with the assertion that you are lying. Also saying I don’t believe there is ‘any oblivion’ is nonsensical again. ‘Any’ implies that this nothingness is measurable, we can’t quantify and measure nothing. Semantics.

            In any event, why would I want to put off my day of reckoning, even if there were a God. What exactly am I supposed to have done wrong, as you seem to think I should have something to fear.
            I understand why you think Douglas might by buggered, pun intended. But why me?

          • pobjoy

            this conversation just got pretty weird

            It’s been weird since we read that ‘doctors will patrol the wards with shotguns’.

          • Chris Morriss

            I gather that Douglas, in spite of his bizarre judeo-christian suffused articles, is an atheist.
            I am not an atheist, I’m a heretic, and I certainly don’t believe there is oblivion after death. I still want the ability to request to be killed painlessly, without quibble, at a time of my own choosing.

          • pobjoy

            You gather that Douglas says he an atheist. If you read my comments further, you may understand why it is not sensible to believe that.

            I still want the ability to request to be killed painlessly

            If someone asked you to kill him/her, would be feel ok about it?

    • Frank

      Who is going to decide wether suffering is better than oblivion?

      • Paul Moylan

        The same people that decided oblivion is better than suffering I guess.

        • pobjoy

          People who think that breaking even is better than debt, probably.

  • JSC

    Mental illness is not sufficient to warrant assisted dying, if anything it should de-facto rule out that such a person could possibly consent to such a thing.

    • freddiethegreat

      It would certainly eliminate any left-wingers

      • Mary Ann

        Eliminates kippers.

        • freddiethegreat

          Overfishing is doing that already

    • Dominic Stockford

      An elderly lady in Europe was recently euthanased. Apparently, in her dementia, she said she wanted to die, so the courts over-ruled her doctors and enforced ‘her choice’.

    • Paul Moylan

      Pain is just a chemical reaction in the brain, what if the mental illness causes pain? Murky water, ultimately the decision will either fall with the patient or the state. neither of which seem like good options.

  • It is legalised mass murder. This issue has been developing momentum for years, but I wonder if it has not been secretly applied to the mentally ill for decades. It could also be a convenient means of ‘getting rid of evidence’ if a mentally ill person knows something they were not supposed to. Thus, the ‘doctor’ or ‘therapist’ legitimately supplies the pills or administers the medication, and then times the death according to their convenience. Who would bother investigating the ‘suicide’ of a manic depressive? As far as the ‘doctor’ or ‘therapist’ is confirmed they have ‘eased their pain’.

    • margot1

      No it’s not. It is killing at the request of the patient. I strongly suggest you visit a terminal cancer ward where people either exist as sedated vegetables or in abhorrent pain. Then we can carry on with this conversation.

      • You mistake my words – I don’t mean when people genuinely seek to die; I mean all the other times when doctors and relatives decide someone must die without the knowledge of the patient. The appalling moral standards of many contemporary doctors and therapists are not properly known by the general public. There are many truly dangerous people working in medicine today, as I and numerous others can personally testify. The power of life and death must not be put into the hands of these malevolent sadists.

        • Chris Morriss

          I agree, but you are deliberately trying to change the debate. The discussion is about those who request to be killed painlessly.

          • No, it is 50% of the equation. No lessons were learned from the Harold Shipman case.

      • Margot5000

        Spot on. Can’t believe that all this is still being argued about. One problem might be those with dementia facing a nasty end. I believe Power of Att. now gives some control over med. matters but would that be accepted if a decision needed? Possibly extra safeguards needed in such cases – otherwise dementia holds yet more horrors.

        Incidentally, should one of us change our name on here! We seem to have the same views on this but if we didn’t it might cause some confusion. I’ve added a long number to my name but if you want to stick with yours will change it completely I think. ??

  • Incidentally, aborting millions of the population before they’re born, killing off the old, infirm and impaired, importing millions of immigrants with savage, backwards customs – aren’t these the ideal methods for destroying a country?

    • Zanderz

      Humans become a commodity.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Game Over, Britisher pals.

      • Not yet. First comes knowledge, then comes action.

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  • Flintshire Ian

    With views on personal freedom like those reported above, maybe Liz Kendall really is a closet Tory?

    • Dominic Stockford

      Maybe indeed. I know that DOCTOR Tania Matthias, Tory MP for Twickenham, is all in favour of euthanasia.

  • mrclaypole

    I am a high street property solicitor. With depressing regularity I see families who want mum or grandpas house transferred to them ‘because of the care home fees’. As a rule I always see the elderly person alone and inevitably they have no desire to transfer the home but are afraid of abandonment by the relative. So many clients have appropriated the asset in their heads long before the death of the relative. Often after I have tried to find a tactful way to stop the theft the family will go and find an online or bulk conveyancer who will action the request no questions asked.

    There is a part of me that quietly rejoices when greedy nephews or nieces discover that Uncle Ted, who they had not bothered to see for umpteen years has left the house to Battersea dogs home or in one amusing case to his Filipino cleaner (who had visited him daily for years). Assisted dying will make it a lot easier to avoid those care home fees in the future and no doubt save a few quid on the NHS and welfare budgets too.

    • Douglas Redmayne

      Assisted dying will indeed save public money. It will also benefit the living. Still, I don’t care and think we should slide all the way to the bottom of the slope.

    • MC73

      Thing is they now have a legal precedent to overturn Uncle Ted’s will, so they can have him offed regardless.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Laws made for emotional reasons are always bad laws.

    • WillG

      All laws are made for emotional reasons. Don’t be silly.

      • Chris Morriss

        That’s the problem with our laws. Why not make laws based on evidence?

        • WillG

          Fine in terms of comparing laws with each other – though we’d probably have to do A/B testing to get the evidence. But the reason behind the law? Say, property. Why should we be allowed it. That’s not logic, that’s emotion. Because we feel better if we ‘own’ things. Why not kill people? Because it causes bad emotional consequences. At a fundamental level, it’s all about emotion – about maximising wellbeing. Of course, this is navel gazing, as on the whole we all share those emotions 🙂

  • Mike E

    To me, the problem of the “possible pressure on old people, who may feel they have become a burden” is enough to say absolutely no to euthanasia.

    • red2black

      What about people in other circumstances that have nothing to do with being old or fearing they’ve become a burden?

  • TrulyDisqusted

    What are the Life Assurance ramifications of this?

    What’s to stop someone who is financially struggling to keep a roof over their families head loading up with insurance/assurance policies then taking a legal pill.

    Why bother playing the lottery if you know how much you’re going to win and even the date that Granny intends to gives the greatest gift of all?

    • Retired Nurse

      Lord Joffe (the bills original sponsor) owns Hambro ….the entire movement is run by them, which is why they can pay for all the marketing shenanigans promoting it.

  • TrulyDisqusted

    Only in the Glorious Peoples Democratic Republic of European Union could legislators make it illegal for pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs to the USA which may be used in the delivery of the death penalty of convicted criminals, yet make it perfectly legal for their own doctors to use drugs to intentionally kill over a thousand patients a year without their consent, as happened in Belgium last year.

    • David Booth.

      Very well put.

    • G&T

      yet make it perfectly legal for their own doctors to use drugs to
      intentionally kill over a thousand patients a year without their consent

      Could you verify what you mean by giving consent, your statement reads as if the patients refused to give consent whereas I’d be pretty certain they were unable to either consent or deny due to their incapacity through chronic illness with absolutely no hope of recovery. There is a distinction although your point is appreciated for the irony.

    • Roger Hudson

      People object to the stupid American chemical killings because the Yanks make the death penalty into a circus. A strong drink ( bourbon + barbiturates + morphine) with the condemned’s last meal would be a lot better.

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  • Douglas Redmayne

    I see this as quite simple: it is up to the individual if they wish to die, whether they are ill or “tired of life”. “Men must endure.” is symptomatic of a spiteful authoritarianism as well as no proper argument for interfering in someone else’s free choice.

    As with abortion assisted dying is none of the business of reactionaries like Murray whose prime motivation seems to be moralising and a wish to use the power of a Conservative ascendency to deny choice to others for the sake of it.

    • Augustus

      But it is not always as simplistic as you describe. The slippery slope occurs when, as in Holland where assisted deaths have increased substantially in recent years, and where investigations into a number of those patients histories were found not to have been given the proper care and treatment required by law prior to the doctors concerned performing euthanasia. It’s a bit odd that, in our time when due diligence in matters of monetary affairs is so strictly regulated, the same standards of care for the prevention of human suffering can be so easily discarded. Also, I don’t think your ‘tired of life’ argument holds up in the general scheme of things. Having said that, I do think that in extreme suffering cases the freedom to choose finality of suffering makes sense.

    • Oliver Pereira

      You think there is a Conservative ascendency that opposes this? You must be having a laugh. Why do you think support for assisted suicide and euthanasia has become so prominent just in the last few years, coinciding with the rise of UKIP and the election of the most right-wing government since the Second World War?

      I can’t believe that the rise in support for killing and the rise of the political right are unconnected. Both practically and ideologically, they go hand in hand.

      As a practical matter, the Tories’ removal of the Independent Living Fund which helped disabled people to live independent lives, the relentless slashing of benefits for the poorest people in society, the “sanctions” against unemployed people which cut off what little income they had, and the failure to properly fund the NHS are going to put more and more pressure on that organisation. An announcement that end-of-life care can now be bypassed with a quick and easy suicide would cause rejoicing amongst many right-wingers, I’m sure. From their callous, money-focused point of view, all those “bed-blockers”, and all those who need most medication and most care, could now be disposed of – of their own free will, of course! – and a huge amount of money would be saved. Hurrah!

      And of course, ideologically, the rhetoric of the right wing has long been about personal agency and personal choice. If you are poor, then get off your arse and make some money! You are free to choose to do that! Never mind if there are not enough jobs to go round. At least you have the choice to compete for what jobs there are, and that’s the main thing, right?! If you’re not pulling your weight in the economy, then, well, you are nothing but a scrounger. Your life is without value. Oh, what’s that? You want to end it? Cool! That’s just your personal choice. Nothing to do with us…

      • Douglas Redmayne

        I am afraid you have this wrong: the Tories want people to suffer by staying alive because that cultivates the virtue they preach about

  • Parkmeister

    Doctors in hospitals across the UK routinely euthanase elderly patients every day. The so-called “Liverpool Care Pathway” never really went away as UK hospital doctors still evidently subscribe to it as a lesser evil than extending life without quality of life. My grandmother suffered a massive stroke in February this year and already suffered from mid-stage Alzheimer’s. The stroke left her in a hospital bed and unable to communicate – whereupon she also contracted pneumonia and MRSA. Upon the doctors’ advice all food, water and antibiotics were withdrawn. It took three further days for my grandmother to die, during which time, she was in obvious severe pain and during which time we had to badger staff to provide sufficient morphine – they couldn’t even find a syringe driver to administer it automatically. One of the most haunting experiences of my life – I feel like we were complicit in putting my grandmother down – and, I discovered when I spoke to friends and colleagues, still typical. When rank and file hospital doctors are treating “do not resuscitate” instructions as licences to euthanase it makes an even bigger absurdity of the high minded discussions going on in the House of Lords than they would be anyway.

    • Margot

      They probably call it palliative care! Your experience is so typical. Doctors are cowards who do not want to send someone on their way easily (they must keep their holier than thou image of not killing!) but are content to let them starve and dehydrate to death. Been said so many times but worth repeating – you wouldn’t do it to a dog.

    • Retired Nurse

      ..hence the specious Neuberger coverup of the century -do you know she let the inventor of the pathway investigate himself behind the scenes! He and MarieCurie plc were vicariously liable for Corporate Manslaughter, ditto the NHS – one of the biggest coverups in the history of this country!

  • Callipygian

    What you choose to do with your body might very well have an effect on what someone else does with theirs.
    Bingo!

  • Brasidas44

    Some years ago, my brother died of cancer. At the end, he was in terrible pain. The medical staff basically made a decision to allow him as much opiate pain killer as he wanted. I am still not sure how much of the death was due directly to the cancer, and how much of a contribution the opiates made. This type of situation does exist.
    I do not think that the problem can be solved by any law, only by a high standard of ethics of the appropriate medical staff. From what I have sometimes seen, this cannot be taken for granted.
    The problem is that in the real world, treatment decisions, alleviation of suffering decisions, and avoiding inflicting pain through treatment are not always compatible.

    • Fred Uttlescay

      It was entirely due to the cancer. He wouldn’t have been on morphine otherwise, and would have died regardless.

    • Chris Morriss

      You not known anyone dying from cancer if you think that opiates are the panacea. Towards the end they are not of much use.

  • WillG

    I find this article pretty unimpressive myself. A lot of slippery-slope arguments, which raise some points that need addressing, but this is my life and my body and I think requiring us all to suffer in our dying days is on a par with any of the atrocities committed by religions throughout history.

    Freedom and personal agency outweigh all your points, for me.

    • lmda

      What about my freedom to obtain superior UK palliative care which your freedom to legal euthanasia will erode?

      • WillG

        It should mean the opposite. More resources for you

        • lmda

          Apparently, according to the Dutch experience, this is not what happens (see paragraph 16 of article)

        • MC73

          Yeah, as if that will happen. They’ll close the palliative care facilities and replace them with some drugs and a blast furnace. Bargain, and means ‘we’ can re-allocate resources where they are really needed.

        • Oliver Pereira

          “More resources for you.”

          I wonder if we are seeing here the real reason why people support euthanasia! Unbridled greed seems to be the motivation for everything in politics, now, doesn’t it? Personally, I’m happy to part with money, when it means helping others to live. But it feels more and more as if I am in a small minority, nowadays.

          • WillG

            Nice swerve but no. People support euthanasia because they’ve watched relatives die slowly, miserably and without dignity and are repulsed by the warped remnants of a religious morality that sanctifies human life at any cost, especially at the cost of your rights to decide your own fate.

          • Oliver Pereira

            Except that this has nothing to do with religion. Didn’t you read the title of the article that we are commenting on? Oh. Oh, I see. They’ve changed the title. Well, it’s still in the URL: “the-atheist-case-against-assisted-dying”.

            I’m about as anti-religious as they come. I am an unabashed rationalist. And for that reason, I am entirely opposed to euthanasia. I can see through the irrational doublethink that so many confused people engage in, when they say that allowing euthanasia somehow gives people more control. It doesn’t. A dead person does not have more control than a living person. No rational person could deny that.

      • milford

        Superior UK palliative care? You mean The Liverpool Pathway? Yeah lovely.

        • lmda

          See paragraph 16 of Douglas Murray’s article.

    • Oliver Pereira

      “Freedom and personal agency outweigh all your points, for me.”

      I agree. Freedom and personal agency are really important things. Now, how much freedom and personal agency does a dead person have? None whatsoever. So your argument is good, and it logically implies opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.

      • WillG

        No it doesn’t. We are not summing agency over time.

        • Oliver Pereira

          Well, you might very well not be. But why not? Is it because you have to short-sightedly focus only on one moment in time, in order to make your argument work? Are you admitting that if you look at the bigger picture, your argument breaks down?

          • WillG

            No. Because agency includes deciding when to die, if that choice is available to you. At which point it is clearly specious to attribute opportunity cost to future choices

    • heracletian

      Though I think suicide via ‘assisted dying’ or otherwise an awful recourse, surely ‘freedom and personal agency’ should lead you to the conclusion that a decision about ‘your death’ is none of the state’s or law’s business?

      As it stands, pro-euthanasia advocates start with the argument from autonomy (my life, my death, etc.) but then wheel in the state (i.e. everybody) to create a situation affecting everyone (by change of law) just so they can pretend they’re being autonomous.

      As it stands, the ‘argument from autonomy’ is a false posture.

      ‘… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’
      John Donne

      • WillG

        I agree it is none of the state’s business, but at present the state legislates to criminalise anyone assisting me in the carrying out of my wishes. The change of law being requested is that the state butts out of this. That is hardly ‘wheeling in the state’

  • kitten

    If people don’t like the way the abortion law is being used maybe they should be focusing on the lack of contraceptions for men.
    The onus on women is unfair, considering an abortion is often the result of the man not wanting a child then (or with them).

    This country seems determined to treat us like children from cradle to grave.

    If people have a life limiting illness is should be their decision, and their decision alone, to make.

    It really is none of anyone elses business, the same as an abortion.

  • Augustus

    There are indeed slippery slopes in the euthanasia debate. In Holland earlier this year a survey of 1456 doctors, and published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, found that a great majority of them thought that there was a major problem and a difference between ‘assisting’ cancer patients, or those with other serious conditions to die, and doing so for dementia patients. Now there are a number of types of Alzheimer’s, and because in practically all cases proper communication is no longer possible, any degree of unbearable suffering is also impossible to prove. Although patients with Alzheimer’s generally deteriorate further over time, new medicines are coming along all the time which can help to arrest this deterioration (although not cure the cause), and because of the diverse nature of the disease to lump all people of advanced years suffering from Alzheimer’s as simply someone with a psychiatric disorder is not only completely out of date, but also unfair and unjust to the individual.

    • cartimandua

      I have worked in a dementia care home. Some of the residents were gently fine or sleepy.
      One at least was in a constant state of distress.

  • Augustus

    And another thing about Holland. While it’s true that the vast majority of Dutch doctors have experienced pressure on them to perform euthanasia, either from the patients themselves, or their next of kin, and that such pressure has increased in recent years, it’s a misunderstanding to think that everyone living in Holland has some kind of unquestionable right to euthanasia. Dutch Law still states that euthanasia is a criminal offence, but allowable under certain circumstances. It is allowed: If there is unbearable and hopeless suffering, and if there are no available alternatives. Any request must be also be reviewed by a second, independent physician who is a member of the euthanasia help organization called SCEN. But the doctor to whom the request is made always has the right to refuse the request, if only for reasons of principle. However, in such cases he/she would usually refers the patient to another doctor.

    • cartimandua

      Its the “no alternatives” that antis don’t want to know about. The truth is there are some people and some symptoms beyond all help and we all want teams of doctors to act bravely where they can.
      In the case of my Mother she had a weak heart and a blocked bowel. They couldn’t stop her vomiting and faeces came up the tube in her nose.
      She and her doctors opted for the high risk surgery.
      She bled and went back to theatre and that was it.
      The antis would have left her to suffer mental and physical anguish.
      The alternative was terminal sedation.
      Thank God for the doctors who gave her the chance of life or at least a good death.
      They wee relieved to meet a relative (me) who understood their decision to try the surgery.

      • Oliver Pereira

        Your comment is very unclear. A decision to try a high-risk surgical procedure is not remotely close to being the same thing as a decision to commit suicide. The former is a choice of hope; the latter is an abandonment of it.

    • Oliver Pereira

      A “criminal offence” that is nevertheless “allowed” would be an oxymoron in any state that had such a thing as the rule of law.

      The need for two doctors to sign off on an act of euthanasia is no barrier, any more than it currently is for abortion in the UK. Simply find two doctors who are in favour of it, and get them to approve the action. And what is the reasoning for insisting that one must be a member of a “euthanasia help organisation”? Surely that would introduce a bias towards euthanising the patient.

      You might as well introduce legislation to help pigs, saying that from now on, no pig may be killed – unless two butchers agree to the slaughter.

      • Augustus

        The Dutch law on euthanasia (The Euthanasia Law introduced in 2002) tries to abide by certain international conventions regarding basic human rights, such the UN Convention on civil and political rights and the European Convention on human rights. Euthanasia is therefore punishable unless the doctor who performs the act adheres to the requirements that are included in the law. The doctor must also report the euthanasia to the authorities. The ‘help organization’ mentioned is a department of The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) and acts only as a second opinion. The NVVE, mentioned in the article, calls itself a ‘Dutch association for a voluntary end of life’ and is committed to helping people ‘die with dignity’. They say they have 160,000 members and that they are growing at the rate of 50 per day. They have charitable status with certain tax advantages.

        • Retired Nurse

          The longest ‘punishment’ ever meted out was 1 week’s probation in the Van Ouillen case….

          • Augustus

            I agree that that sentence was lenient although Dr van Oijen was also put on two years probation. He was tried for murder in 2005, and found guilty for falsely reporting a certificate of natural death in 1997. His patient had been an 85 year old female nursing home resident whose condition had deteriorated terribly, had lapsed in a coma and remained alive in a poor state. Dr van Oijen administered an expired muscle relaxant and the patient died shortly thereafter. Apparently the leniency was due to the fact that the patient was already comatosed.

  • Skyeward

    Oregon’s law isn’t really the trainwreck described here. One doctor’s opinion printed in the WSJ is simply one to consider among many. Personally I think the spotlight shed on palliative and hospice care in each state that implements assisted dying and the subsequent improvements are pretty significant.

    • Retired Nurse

      ‘It works in Oregon’ isn’t much of a recommendation…they still have the death penalty, and all these ‘dumbass laws’ http://www.dumblaws.com/laws/united-states/oregon

      They simply don’t gather any statistics that would reveal the abuses anymore …

  • ardenjm

    Oh Douglas.
    If God is dead in our post-Christian societies, are you REALLY expecting Shakespeare to give people a reason for living?

    Your whole article refuses to grasp the nettle: is there an objective goodness that is really a part of being/existence (of which moral goodness will be a rational, agent-intention-action part) as the Majority Report of the Greeks (Plato and Aristotle) maintained? Or was Hume right, following the Minority Report of the Greeks (the Sophists) and the British Empirical tradition after him: ‘an ought can’t be derived from an is’? In which case, moral questions are mere opinion.

    The former doesn’t prevent us doing bad things – but it does require us to acknowledge that goodness and badness are not merely our subjective, relativistic take on things. The latter school of thought, however, opens the door to what we now see: freedom understood as (unbridled) license and this endless clamour for rights.

    So if you think Shakespeare – Art – call it what you will – fills the “meaninglessness gap” created by the empiricists with their reductive materialism, it’s time to think again. BUT, I’ll grant you this – Beauty might well point the way to that “something more” that we urgently, desperately, need to reconnect with. If we can only get back to Aristotle and Plato we might just be able to catch a glimpse of what lies beyond them, also…
    For the present, the infernal logic of our philosophical tradition ever since the Enlightenment (oh the irony!) has brought us to this fragmented, confused and dangerous pass.

    John Paul II was right: we live in a Culture of Death. Having rendered abortion a banal part of our squalid moral landscape we are now finding a solution to the final ‘end of life’ problem. Another Great Leap Forward, no doubt….
    Our British knee-jerk flippancy protects us, mostly, from the worst excesses of puritanical moralising and meddling utopia-making, the downside is that it also leaves us shrugging our indifferent ‘whatevers’ and unable to look at certain uncomfortable issues firmly in the eye. That probably explains why we still can’t see what an abortion does to a baby on our screens, newspapers or on banners and posters deemed to be ‘offensive’ to public mores. It’s hard to be resolutely flippant when Planned Parenthood harvests organs from still living aborted foetuses, I guess… but no doubt there are jokers at the Edinburgh Fringe who have managed it.

    • Fred Uttlescay

      Christianity is a death cult, an unhealthy obsession with an absurd and nonsensical presumed afterlife. Behave well or the war God of love will burn you in hell, for eternity if we are talking Jesus in the NT.

      • ardenjm

        You sound, as always, and I’ve been crossing swords with you for years, Fred Scuttle, like the dwarves in C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Last Battle’:
        “We’re on our own now. No more Aslan, no more kings, no more silly stories about other worlds. The Dwarves are for the Dwarves!”

        As Aslan says of them at the end of the story when they remain absolute in their denial of him:
        “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

        Since your position has been the same for years, I don’t doubt for one instant that you have rendered yourself incapable of questioning it. That’s your choice. It’s a dismal one. But it is yours. And so it’s what you will be left with.

        Oh, and Shakespeare’s one of ours: either there’s meaning and meaningfulness or there aint. Shakespeare, even at his darkest, most pessimistic, almost inspite of himself one might think, makes manifest meaningfulness – even as he speaks about meaninglessness (wonderfully enough! All the world’s a stage, speech, for example.)
        You, on the other hand offer what, exactly? You troll around with your scorn and cynicism whenever Jesus and Christianity are mentioned – but I’ve never seen you offer an alternative that is truer, better or more beautiful. Now’s your chance, Fred: in a universe without God, meaning, meaningfulness or anything other than subjective, personal, ephemeral goodness, what ya got to offer?

    • Grace Ironwood

      Great post, Ardenjm, that really does identify the issue.

      -“Beauty might well point the way to that “something more” that we urgently, desperately, need… to catch a glimpse of what lies beyond”

      It has been said that we are living on the coattails, the moral patrimony of Christianity and that it’s fast being superseded by the new norms of the sovereignty of individual desire and a utilitarian approach to the public good.

      To give him due credit I think Douglas is aware of this problem: why should a post-christian society maintain the Christian absolutist principle of no killing ?Or the others.

      He has written other articles regarding this. (In Standpoint, possibly?) As I recall, he asked the same question as to whether great art can really fill the gap.

      Thing is, all attempts in in aesthetic philosophy to link Truth and Beauty have failed. Beauty can’t fill the transcendental gap.

      I think that Natural Law/Natural Rights is more promising, underlying as it does,
      the Bill of Rights, declaration of Human Rights, which is still appealed to as moral authority for rights claims today.
      If these truths are still “self-evident” they can only be founded on a secularised Natural Law.
      Interesting to see the GreenLeft’s positive response to the Pope’s recent invocation of Natural Law on environmental isues, (although they ignored the implications of his statements that this also applies to “human ecology”!)

      • pobjoy

        a post-christian society

        How is a christian society defined?

        • ardenjm

          I’m sure Grace Ironwood will have her own answer to make.

          For my part I’d want to distinguish between a State (with its government) and the Society that the State embodies politically and internationally. The government is meant to represent and serve the members of Society as an executive and legistlative branch of the State, administering, and enacting public policy according to their competences and powers.

          In the light of that, I’d define a society with the body metaphor that comes from Plato’s Republic: diverse members in a united whole, working for the Common Good in such a way as the personal good can also be attained – as far as it’s possible without that harming the Common Good. Part of that Common Good will include the values we want to uphold and be ready to make sacrifices worth making.

          Thus, when I speak of a post-Christian society, and you ask for a definition of what a Christian society might be, that’s more general definition of what a society is would be my starting point. To answer you specific question: What would be properly CHRISTIAN about a ‘Christian society’, would be something like the following:
          The diverse members of that society will look to, and be informed by Christ’s life and teaching in the way they live their lives personally and collectively (St Paul – knowingly or not – echoes Plato’s ‘body politic’ metaphor when he speaks of Christians being members of Christ’s body). This will include the 10 Commandments in terms of what they expect their government to uphold and, for example, a belief in objective morality (rather than subjectivism and relativism which presently dominates). Since most people are now relativists, it is quite reasonable to conclude that we live in a post-Christian society where any reference to Jesus Christ is, in fact, to the Jesus Christ we’ve made in our own image – the most egregious example being Elton John’s “Jesus would be in favour of gay marriage because he was all about tolerance.” (Or words to that effect.)

          Just my two bits.

          • pobjoy

            I’m sure Grace Ironwood will have her own answer to make.

            I suspect that she was hoping that you would reply instead. 🙂

            This will include the 10 Commandments

            So is (was) Protestant society Christian?

          • ardenjm

            I’m not going to indulge your tedious anti-Catholic bigotry, I’ve already done that in the past, pobjoy, I don’t see any contractual requirement to feed a troll TWICE.

            Especially since your views are animated by one of the variant 30,000 protestant movements (who knows, perhaps your own!) that have sprung up since Protestantism was first invented 500 years ago.

            Imperfect, fallen human beings, even with God’s grace, get many things wrong. The question is, in Augustinian terms, do they strive for the City of God, or do they build the City of Man? In the light of that, you can answer your own question.

            I appreciate that you’ll still be choking on the anti-Catholic bile that you eruct in inexhaustible supply. Too bad. If you’d ACTUALLY been interested in my answer to your original question you’d have engaged with it here – instead of setting (another) Catholic vs Protestant trap. Again.

            I tell you what – go and bother an Orthodox Christian (they barely recognise Catholics as a Christian Church so Lord alone knows what they make of the protestant churchlets.)

            I recommend Esfigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos -they’re Orthodox versions of you. You’ll be in great company.

            Mind how you go. And, please (please!) don’t bother to reply to THIS post since you can’t be bothered to reply seriously to the one where I actually spend time giving your (unserious) questions a (serious) answer.

          • pobjoy

            You’re wishing you’d left it to Grace, eh. 🙂

            A Catholic can hardly admit that Protestantism is Christian, yet you two have been talking about ‘post-christian society’ as if it is Christian. Post-Christian society, to a Catholic, began with Henry VIII, or maybe Edward VI; a long time ago, anyway. So, like almost all Western Catholics, you both believe that Protestantism (i.e. sola fide and sola Scriptura) is true Christianity, and Catholicism therefore is not, but you like people to think that it was Catholicism that sustained Britain in its greatness. In fact, Europe was probably in a poorer state after a millennium of Catholicism than when it began.

            So there is no getting at Catholics, here. It is putting invasive Catholics in their place; not something they like. They like to pose as moral, humane, cultured, academically respectable, even left wing people. Whereas senior Catholics, left to themselves before the Renaissance, were anything but: greedy, violent, scandalously immoral, brutal, brutish, ignorant and superstitious. These were the reasons for Reformation and Counter-Reformation, as much as theology. Catholics like to spew their authoritarian, right wing propaganda on the ‘net, and have no poster dare to question them. Hence the predictably nasty reaction seen above.

            Not that the poster’s criterion make too much sense, for other reasons.

            The Israelites were given the Decalogue (and no others, we should note). So, by the poster’s standard, Israel was Christian, too. Which is puzzling, because God told the Israelites that that they need a Messiah or Christ. In fact, the essential role of Jacob (Israel) was to provide the genealogy of the Messiah; before there were Israelites in Canaan.

            The moral code in the Decalogue that can be expressed in legislation consists of that against murder, theft, perjury and adultery. These are found in legal codes in all places, in all times when law has been recorded, including the many centuries before Moses went up Sinai. So the conclusion of the poster’s view is that, if a society is that which is governed by the rule of law, all societies are Christian. So talk of a post-Christian society makes no sense. Indeed, talk of a Christian society makes no sense, if Jesus was the Christ, he who said that “many are called, but few are chosen”.

          • ardenjm

            “A Catholic can hardly admit that Protestantism is Christian”

            The various protestantisms are heretical to varying degrees. The degrees are decided upon by the extent to which they agree or not with Church teaching. Thus, as Protestantism peters out in things like Seventh Day Adventists, Universalists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormonism and so on (all of which emerge as protests within more mainstream protestant churchlets), we can see that the source from which they were issued were incompletely in the truth at their inception.

            C.S. Lewis tries to identify Mere Christianity in his work of that name. Broadly it was the content of the Nicene Creed. The extent to which the movement he belonged to, Anglicanism, has abandoned that teaching is testament to the fact that even movements that tried to retain a greater amount of the Deposit of the Faith, end up by losing it. Luther, for example, could call Mary the Mother of God, because he understood the theological and conciliar reasons for it. Calvin doesn’t recognise Mary as Mother of God, using the Biblical Mother of the Lord – from St Elizabeth. The Lord, though, for Calvin, was God Incarnate, so in that sense, he still affirmed the Church’s traditional teaching.

            Ask pretty much any Lutheran or Calvinist today – or the church representatives responsible for teaching – whether Mary is the Mother of God, and they will look at you with suspicion and stupefaction. Explain why she is called thus to them and they will remain in their invincible ignorance, more often than not. This is not their fault. They belong to movements started by men who rejected the Church’s authority – established by Christ and indicated in Scripture here and elsewhere:

            “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16vs13.

            Accordingly, with the rejection of Papal Authority, the Anglican movement began its slow decline – less rapid than in other quarters. The decay was made manifest – socially speaking – at the 1930 Lambeth Conference when for the first time a group subscribing to the Nicene Creed declared that artificial contraception could be used. By increments, therefore, the permissive society was given the Anglican communion’s blessing which is why Anglicans are in favour of abortion, divorce, gay marriage, and, as we’ve seen with Archbishop Carey, euthanasia.

            The rapid implosion of American Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism on moral questions over the last 10 or so years has been staggering to behold. Whilst I recognise that many Catholics no longer believe the teachings of the Church on these questions they remain, nevertheless, the teachings of the Church. As indeed they must: they come from Christ. Protestantism fragments under the pressure of its incompleteness and its incoherencies. Anyone with any shred of intellectual honesty acknowledges that. Do you?

            As for your last quasi Amish-Mennonite-Exclusive Bretheren-Jehovah Witness salvo that there can be no such thing as a Christian society because there aren’t many (true) Christians anyway and those that are won’t have anything to do with the massa damnata. You couple that view with your de-incarnising or “spiritualising” of Christ’s life, death and teaching (even though He Himself says not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away but will be fulfilled in Him) and so you render the Gospel as entirely an interior-transforming power. But we are soul AND body – the Gospel transforms the whole life of man. You fail to grasp that. This failure, too, is a consequence of your protestantism, that has insufficiently understood the Incarnation and the realism of God becoming sarx, flesh, in time and place and history. He likewise establishes a real Church, made up of sinners, in time and place and history. And that body of believers – sinners and elect alike, God alone knows – is called to be the leaven in the dough, the lamp on the lampstand, a city on a hill and a light before men. A society can turn towards or away from that. It can turn askance – Anglicanism, for example, or it can turn its back – John Knox’s puritanical theocracy. Similarly, the members of that Church can fail to live up to Christ’s teaching – sometimes very widely so – the Arian heresy, for example.

            I’m not writing this for you, of course Pobjoy. You are, I think, beyond the reach of anything I can say to you. But God forbid someone reading you should be led astray. So I write for them. For you, I can simply entrust you to Our Lady’s maternal intercession. Which I do most sincerely. Even as you spew your bile on it.

          • pobjoy

            The various protestantisms are heretical to varying degrees.

            Can’t even spell! It’s Protestantism, and it’s nothing to do with protest, ignoramus. To protest, in the 16th century, was to avow, to affirm. So Protestantism is ‘affirmation of the gospel’.

            And the CoE, whose prevalent influence you covet, lying, indolent, slimeball parasite that you are, affirmed the gospel, as sola Scriptura; and sola fide, too, and your scruffy, criminous cult described both as deep heresy and anathema.

            So do shut that half-wit sewer of a mouth of yours.

          • ardenjm

            I think I’ll just copy and paste below what you’ve written above, pobjoy, because I think it so perfectly exemplifies your ACTUAL anti-Catholic and anti-Christian spirit in such a mask-slipping way that you’ll doubtless come and doctor it when you’re in less of a temper at the nerves I’ve so clearly hit, and make it look less offensive.

            I accuse you of anti-Catholic bile. You, however, make this entirely about me – and what choice language! That’s fine. The truth will out. But let it stand here – because I reckon you’re possibly in the throes of demonic rage at the moment, and you’ll want to come back and tidy up, possibly even delete, what you’ve spewed forth here. So here it is – in a place which you can’t tidy up. This is what you actually wrote. Come back in 24 hours, if you want to apologise. Until then. No further posts from me. You need to calm down. And pray.

            From Pobjoy:

            “The various protestantisms are heretical to varying degrees.

            Can’t even spell! It’s Protestantism, and it’s nothing to do with protest, ignoramus. To protest, in the 16th century, was to avow, to affirm. So Protestantism is ‘affirmation of the gospel’.

            And the CoE, whose prevalent influence you covet, lying, indolent, slimeball parasite that you are, affirmed the gospel; and sola fide, too, and your scruffy, criminous cult described both as deep heresy and anathema.

            So do shut that half-wit sewer of a mouth of yours.”

          • pobjoy

            the throes of demonic rage

            😀

          • ardenjm
          • pobjoy

            Cowards flee.

          • ardenjm

            Yep. Right back at ya pobjoy. Watch the whole thing, then.

          • pobjoy

            Publicity stunt for desperate filth.

          • ardenjm

            Cowards flee, I’m guessing, or else you’d watch the whole thing. And, frankly, if mild-mannered and gentle Peter Kreeft strikes you as “desperate filth” then you merely confirm what I fear for you. It’s a spiritual sickness called Pride.

            I’ll carry on praying for you.

          • pobjoy

            There’s no shortage of points that you should be dealing with, slimy poltroon.

          • ardenjm

            I’ll leave that as your last word, then, pobjoy.

            “There’s no shortage of points that you should be dealing with, slimy poltroon.”

    • Margot5000

      Abortion doesn’t do anything to a ‘baby’. When a foetus becomes a person is another argument. Many would say the degree of suffering should be considered and that an older primate will have more suffering than a new-born human – that indeed many species with nervous systems are capable of more suffering than a new-born human.

      • ardenjm

        “Abortion doesn’t do anything to a ‘baby’.”

        As Orwell so rightly taught us, control language and you control what people think and eventually how they act:

        A woman falls pregnant – 6 weeks in and she’s sure. She phones everyone she cares about and says, ‘I’m going to have a foetus!’

        She goes for a scan and asks, “is everything alright with my foetus?”

        She is asked, “would you like to know the sex of your foetus?”

        She’s having a baby. And she knows it. We call it foetus to avoid facing up to what we do to babies when we don’t want them.

        “When a foetus becomes a person is another argument.”

        You’re right. It is. But a human foetus is a human being from conception. A human foetus is not going to become a dog or a cat, is it? So let’s just clarify this for you. Is it real? Does it exists? Is it there, in the mother’s womb? Yes? Then it’s a being. A reality that exists. That is undeniable.

        Secondly, what kind of being is it? A dog? A cat? oh, it’s human?

        Conclusion: Then it’s a human being. At the earliest stage of its development, certainly. But a human being it most certainly is. It’s personhood can, indeed, be discussed. It’s human being-ness, however, cannot. Not unless you empty words of their meaning and twist them into meaning something else. A human existence, life, being. Call it what you will – it is one of those. And NOT something else.

        I’m sorry you’ve bought in to (or have been hoodwinked by) the ideological abuse of language of the last 40 years. (Judging by your echoing of Peter Singer’s speciesist line, though, I’m guessing you’ve bought in to it.) There’s more that needs to be said here about quite why destroying a human life needs to be looked at honestly in the eye (Hitchens managed it, to a degree, why can’t you?) but I’ll see how you react to what I’ve already written. If you react at all.

        • Margot5000

          We’re worlds apart on this one. I can’t really see how your long saga about a woman not saying she’s having a foetus is relevant. Yes, she is going to have a baby but that is in the future. However she sees what is inside her, it is a foetus. That foetus does not have the capacity for suffering that an older child or an adult has (or indeed that an older primate does). How I am seeing this has nothing to do with language. If you call the foetus a baby, or young human, or whatever, that does not change the fact that it does not have the capacity for suffering of a baby or young human. In the hordes that went to the gas chambers, foetuses and even babies did not experience the horrors of older children and adults. And no, I haven’t ‘bought into’ Peter Singer’s line. I happen to agree with him – as you presumably disagree.

  • Sean Grainger

    I don’t think Harold gets in the debate but I also don’t think more than .002 per cent of the pop could quote from Deut.. You are missing the point mate. As the old joke goes old age is not for wimps. Do you [itals] want to kick th e b lieing in your bodily fluids?

  • David Tiffany

    In 2001, the Dutch parliament signed euthanasia into law. On its passing, the former health minister, Els Borst, who had steered the bill through parliament, quoted Jesus’s last words: ‘Het is volbracht’ (‘It is finished’).
    Jesus used those words because He had finished the work that needed to be done to bring eternal life to men.
    To use that same phrase in declaring the ability to bring death is blasphemous.
    http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

    • Retired Nurse

      ….someone gave her ‘a good death’ in her garage shortly afterwards I believe …

  • Margot

    Fact remains that a lot of people have last days and death that you wouldn’t be allowed to let a dog have. What is needed is safeguards – something that this country is not very good in providing. Get adequate ones set up and there should be minimum risk. As always property is the curse of this country. Rubbish housing and now relatives after old granny’s semi.

  • G&T

    Unofficial euthanasia probably occurs in every hospital in the country every day, Doctors are humanitarians, they don’t want to see undue suffering in any of their patients and will know perfectly well how to deal with such delicate matters without opening themselves up to prosecution, with the unspoken unwritten but fully understood agreement of loved ones.

    • johnhenry

      Thus sprach Gin & Tonic.

      • G&T

        I clicked on your name, you are a religious nutcase , but excuse me if I’m being frank, it’s just that I can’t abide people who pretend to be righteous in a condescending manner, it makes me want to break out the 2lb pien hammer and flatten sculls.

    • Margot5000

      If the Liverpool Pathway is a sign of doctors’ humanitarianism then God help us all. If animals can be dispatched humanely how come there there is so much of a problem with humans. Oh silly me, it’s possible – they do it in Switzerland – and anywhere else where true humanitarianism flourishes.

  • Tamerlane

    It’ll be something when the same people that advocate this now find their grandchildren popping ‘death pills’ in fifty years because its their life and they can do what they want with it and they don’t want it because those A level results were too poor to handle or how can they go on after being dumped etc etc. Sad little world.

  • johnhenry

    The Rev. George Pitcher (Ang-Wiccan) had the wisdom and courage to write an important book about this insane assisted suicide thing a few years back, and I’ve since thought kindly of him, despite his otherwise mostly muddled theology: A Time to Live: The Cases Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

  • Grace Ironwood

    Lovely, sensitive writing. Great piece Douglas.

    People seem to think that if they have identified a “slippery slope” argument, that is quite sufficient to dismiss that argument, without further consideration.

    That has not proved to be the case.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Washed up on the UK beach is enough to make you want to top yourself. I hear Boots have a “Goodbye Cruel World” DIY kit on offer. Can anyone still stranded in YUCK confirm?
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

    • John Hextall

      The UK may look pretty intolerable to most people here at the moment but I reckon compared to anywhere south or east of the Med, it’s a bed of roses. There are lots of things you can buy from Boots (or even Tesco’s) that offer an easy way out, if you are in position to go and get them.

    • Retired Nurse

      no, but ‘The Great Protector’ Prince Charles fills in for ‘MoonPig’ and sends a ‘Congratulations on Inheriting the Bungalow’ letter to your healthy offspring if you’re related to one of his senior aides http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/theroyalfamily/4952770/Prince-of-Wales-sends-condolence-message-to-family-of-Dignitas-suicide-couple.html

    • Labour Mole Catcher

      Enough of your own unhappy childhood! We are not interested!

  • G. Shuttleworth

    This proposed bill must be vigorously opposed. My mother suffered grievous bodily harm at a hospital in the British Isles three years ago, where two surgeons performed experimental surgery on her without her consent, from which they received payments surreptitiously from a medical device manufacturer. Only a detailed investigation uncovered what had happened and at the appropriate time will be made public. Laws permitting “assisted dying” will be a godsend to those who commit negligence/malpractice to cover their tracks and conceal the evidence. Don’t tell me that members of the medical profession who support assisted dying aren’t well aware of the benefits of such laws to themselves and would not take personal advantage of them.

    • Chris Morriss

      With respect to the suffering of your mother, your argument is meaningless. Had she previously signed a consent to death form while she was in sound mind? If not, then those doctors should be prosecuted as anyone else would be for GBH. (And if what you say is true, they should be struck off the medical register immediately. There’s too many useless quacks practicing.)

  • Retired Nurse

    Prince Philip has been lobbying for it as he feels we are being kept alive by doctors too long..but no one is allowed to see his correspondence.http://www.christianliferesources.com/news/prince-philip-said-to-back-uk-euthanasia-bill-4433
    I can’t think of any other bill that has been rejected and shoved back through the Lords as often as this one – particularly since a mere 25 people a year have wanted to die so much they travelled to Dignitas.
    We don’t all get a helicopter ride to hospital when we have a urinary tract infection do we 🙂

    I also find it odd that a man who was struck off by the GMC for killing patients (but removed his name from the register the night before, which means he can describe himself as ‘retired’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3103256/Dignitas-using-struck-medic.html ) has been doing all of the mental capacity act tests for the people being taken to Dignitas…rather think he’d be likely to sign anyone off as competent…must be a comfort to whoever inherits the estate…

  • margot1

    Rubbish. I am disgusted by the current hypocrisy on dignified death: it is OK to pay £££ and go on your own terms in Switzerland, but apparently it is evil to do so in your own home?
    I appreciate the need for precautions, but surely how difficult is it to:
    – ask a person “do you want to die?” and
    – if they say “yes”, you stand barbiturates by the bedside table so that they can self-administer; if they say “no”, you give them as much pain relief etc as they need to be comfortable.
    – if they say “yes” but cannot self administer, they we go into assisted dying area, so the assessment of sanity, second opinion, check if the person is not influenced by greedy family member etc. If all is ok, inject them with lethal drug, if not give them as much pain relief etc as they need to be comfortable.
    How difficult is that? It’s your life, none else should tell you how to live it or how it die.

    • Ben

      No, it’s not OK. It’s not illegal since we have the basic right to leave the country if we want to, but it’s not OK either.

  • Leon Kreitzman

    I appreciate your trenchant criticisms on a range if subjects, though I am not always in agreement with your analysis nor opinions.On the question of assisted dying it would be proper to acknowledge the provenance of the views of people who are quoted. Professor Toffler is active in organizations of Catholic physicians in the USA. In no way does this disqualify his views, but it might be better to acknowledge this when you state solely his professional affiliations as a means of adding credence to his opinions.

    • ardenjm

      I agree. It’s always good to know where someone is coming from and what their prior assumptions and philosophical (or in this case theological) commitments might be. A secular, atheistic, materialism has dominated intellectual life for a long time, for example. It’s good to be aware that even the most objective and dispassionate scientific methodology is handled by people who nevertheless bring their own worldview with them to work – no matter how dispassionately they try and apply their scientific method when they don their white coat – the person with a raft of assumptions and prejudices – perdures beneath it.

      Thus: those in favour of assisted suicide/murder (see what I’m doing here? I’m flagging up the position I’m taking on the question) – need to acknowledge where they are coming from. For example – if they have a materialist-reductive perspective on human existence that would say that we’re super-organised star dust with no meaning that doesn’t come from us. It’d be good if they’d give us a heads up about their prior belief in the ultimate meaninglessness of every joy, sorrow, injustice, pity, compassion and kindness. No?

    • pobjoy

      Well noted, and Spectator blogs need more of this surveillance. But I’m not sure that I agree about this:

      In no way does this disqualify his views

      Surely, a person who believes that a man can bread turn into God with not the merest scrap of empirical evidence has no business treating people’s bodies (and if a paederast can perform this feat, then that same person has no business treating people’s minds, either). But perhaps Professor Toffler does not believe that a man can bread turn into God. There are many Americans who deny that this occurs, despite the Catholic Canon that says that this denial makes one anathema, cursed. That stricture may deter all Western Catholics from making the same denial. If so, that Professor Toffler practises truth economy on that issue means that he can hardly be trusted on any other.

      • Leon Kreitzman

        I agree with you but having views based on shall we say magic doesn’t in itself disqualify someone from holding a view or opinion.But it should be made known to others that the individual has this belief. A rational individual making arguments from reason, can change their mind and are open to persuasion. Someone coming to an issue at east partly through faith and dogma is not persuadable. There is then no debate.

        • pobjoy

          I agree with you but having views based on shall we say magic doesn’t in itself disqualify someone from holding a view or opinion.

          No-one’s saying that it is. People can believe that the moon is made of cheese, in the privacy of their own homes. But people who believe in magic should not be given employment in responsible postitions where application of rational methods protects the sick and vulnerable.

  • Chris Morriss

    You quote from Deuteronomy like some far-left Zionist, yet it appears you are a ‘gay’ atheist. Though from your articles you appear to be a very long way from the original meaning of the word gay.

    In your precarious position I would avoid trying to bring religion into it if I were you, though perhaps you’re once again playing a two-faced game.

    Why shouldn’t any person of sound mind request a painless death? Once we used to do that for our pets, though now it seems that vets prefer to fleece the poor pet owner to keep their pet in distress for longer, while raking in huge fees for themselves.

    I certainly require the right to be killed painlessly and at a time of my own choosing, whether I am in physical/mental pain or not. (Or do you want us all to suffer the fate of the Struldbrugs?)

    • lmda

      Whose duty would it be, to kill you painlessly?

      • Chris Morriss

        Interesting question. As the law stands I believe that doctors are required to minimise suffering, though how that squares with doing that by painlessly killing someone is debatable.
        I don’t know whose duty it would be to be honest. I’m sure that many doctors would refuse to perform the act.
        As I am at the moment of sound mind and body, I would expect the medical service to set things up for me, but it would be my job to ‘press the button’.

  • Toby

    Assisting dying bill “A Bill To enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life; and for connected purposes. ”

    When you start your argument with:
    “Nevertheless, anyone doubting the slipperiness of this slope should consider the places where euthanasia is already legal.” it becomes irrelevant!
    Where is euthanasia legal? Nowhere! The bill is about VOLUNTARY euthanasia as you can read above and to make sure that assistants wont be prosecuted for murder.
    Nothing to do with mass murder of the weak of elderly for convenience.

    • ardenjm

      “Nothing to do with mass murder of the weak of elderly for convenience.”
      Yet.

      Wait until the demographic death spiral starts to hit in places like Japan and China. It’ll be amazing how successful the propaganda for self-sacrificing “voluntary” euthanasia will be….

      • WTF

        Is Ian Duncan-Smith involved in this as he always looking for ways to cut the benefits cost for OAP’s and has plenty of form in vindictive cost cutting !

  • Toby

    Assisted dying bill: A Bill to enable competent adults who are terminally ill to choose to be provided with medically supervised assistance to end their own life; and for connected purposes.
    So when your argument is:
    ” Nevertheless, anyone doubting the slipperiness of this slope should consider the places where euthanasia is already legal.” it becomes irrelevant!
    Where is euthanasia legal? Nowhere!
    This bill is about avoiding assistants of VOLUNTARY euthanasia to be prosecuted not about mass murder of the weak and elderly.

  • Margot5000

    Never thought I would disagree with DM but he is so, so wrong on this. It would be helpful if all the antis would say if they have actually seen someone dying very unpleasantly or known someone well with a condition making their lives unbearable. The so-called Liverpool Pathway (i.e. starvation and dehydration) gives mostly a horrible death to the patient and leaves relatives traumatised. “You wouldn’t do it to a dog” really does say it all.

  • WTF

    Couldn’t agree more as we shouldn´t make it easy for euthanasia but keep it at the same position it is right now. As Douglas rightly points out, that slippery slope will become the norm and who knows where we´ll be if we make it too easy.

    There´s a similar heated debate going on in the USA at this very moment for similar reasons regarding abortion with the ´planned parentage´group and research institutions who have been involved in organ harvesting by design rather than by accident. Most are not against abortion for in cases of health issues to mother or child or rape but there’s a line that was crossed in actively making organ harvesting a highly profitable enterprise that is sickening.

    Similarly with euthanasia, there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed in making it too easy to have a loved one put down !

  • Roger Hudson

    A good article, an issue far more important than celebrity gossip. The UK must never allow ‘assisted death’, if any other person is involved it can’t be suicide by simple logic. The only help a doctor can give is to clearly tell a patient that they will shortly be unable to commit suicide if they are physically or mentally deteriorating . Everybody should be able to find out the various methods of suicide, usually chemical and not complicated.
    Helping a ‘loved one’ to die is homicide but we need to trust courts and juries to apply justice to the law, no blind justice please. Doctors likewise must face the process of justice where the exortation ‘do no harm’ can be fully tested.

    • cartimandua

      Which is why so many people not die in truly horrible agony even in the precious hospices.
      From the health ombudsmans report
      “A 74-year-old cancer patient who spent his last days in avoidable pain. He was subjected to 14 unnecessary attempts to reinsert a drip, which caused him further pain and discomfort in his final hours.

      A mother who was forced to call an A&E doctor to administer more pain relief to her 29-year-old son who was in a hospital’s palliative care unit. The investigation found that he experienced unnecessary pain and distress for more than 11 hours because the on-call doctors did not respond to a request to review his pain medication, and this issue was never escalated to senior staff.

      The family of a 67-year-old man who discovered he had terminal cancer after reading his hospital discharge note.

      A family who watched their loved one suffer because the palliative care team were not available to help control the woman’s distressing symptoms in the last hours of her life. The 56-year-old woman had epilepsy and suffered a cardiac arrest.

      A terminally ill 82-year old woman, who was denied her wish to die at home, because of poor care planning.”
      This is why there is a drive for euthanasia. People know good end of life care is a lottery or may not actually be possible when they suffer terrible pain and distress.

  • cartimandua

    Douglas
    These days medicine can delay death but leave people in terrible suffering.
    A lot of peoples end of life symptoms can only be relieved by terminal sedation.
    That means hospital care and the antis don’t like that either.
    Not long ago (probably pre Shipman and pre Labour) doctors and patients had a trust relationship where they decided between them what to do.

    • tartan pimpernel

      Isn’t that the point he made – that trust has become eroded?

  • colchar

    Slippery slope arguments are logical fallacies and are therefore completely invalid.

    • ardenjm

      Hmmm. And what if subsequent contingent events confirm the predictive accuracy of the slippery slope? Your ‘logical fallacy’ has thus become a posteriori fact.
      A posteriori, obviously, not a priori. Nevertheless, those advocating the slippery slope should rub your logical nose in it and make sure they say loud and clear, “I told you so!”

      These questions – like all ethical questions – are part of practical philosophy, not speculative philosophy – they are to do with prudential judgement calls made in the political and ethical sphere. In that case, they are always going to be contingent not necessary and the ‘logical fallacy’ question is a red herring.

      So the issue isn’t one of the invalidity of the slippery slope argument. That’s a given – logically speaking. The question is: Can policy makers make a reasonable enough supposition about the possible consequences of their policies? Since they can’t know those contingent possible consequences with logical, mathematical or metaphysical certitude they have to make a judgement call based on the evidence, predictions and prior experiences that they have at their call. And that’s where ‘slippery slope’ predictive arguments are one voice amongst others. It is more than reasonable to take them in to consideration because they are no more nor less contingent than most other predictive arguments. Dismissing their contribution to the eventual practical judgement that decision-makers have to reach just because they can’t be made with logical certainty is as nonsensical as going up to the doctors who are proposing different treatment possibilities to a patient and poncing around with the fact that the doctors are proposing contingent possibilities that have none of the strength of logical absolutes. Of course they don’t! They are dealing with the contingent, not the necessary! In short – whilst you are RIGHT with your logical validity line – what you contribute to the prudential judgement that still has to be made is even more USELESS than the slippery slope argument. Policy makers would do better to see where similar slippery slope arguments in the past have eventually been proven accurate forecasts and then compare them to where they have been inaccurate forecasts and allow that to help them reach a decision.

    • Sean L

      But the formal properties of an argument have no necessary bearing on its truth value: an argument can be perfectly valid yet entirely false. Slippery slope is a kind of proverbial, give them an inch they’ll take a mile, folk wisdom argument based on the kind of inductive reasoning that we use all the time in the course of everyday existence. Of course that’s no guarantee of its truth in any particular instance, and some proverbs even contradict each other. But a proverb must express some truth to qualify as a proverb in the first place. Slippery slope is a well worn metaphor, shorthand for a predicament that we’re all familiar with; that we understand it immediately is proof enough of that.

  • cartimandua

    At the moment medicine can keep people living in truly dreadful situations.
    Not long ago a person and their doctors were trusted to agree what to do between them.
    Now the State must intrude into every private space.
    Pass assisted dying as it is the only way to protect teams of doctors who take compassionate risks on a daily basis.
    Pass it and then build in a review so that if it becomes the case that all symptoms can be relieved undo it.
    All symptoms cannot be relieved now whether it is pain ,suffocation, or vomiting.

  • LibLabCon Loyalist

    they want to kill old Europeans to make more room for immigrants

  • Eoireitum

    Murray’s a contrarian (sometimes…it at least appears to me). Good. His article made me think. Just as when Hitchen declared himself against abortion (personally – rather than attacking the pro-choice position), I instinctively and incorrectly assumed Murray would be supportive….
    We can’t keep the status quo however – recent reports on the problems of ageing highlight the pain and misery that (some) endure out of all proportion to the benefits assumed to come with longevity.
    As a future pensioner with sod all pension, I don’t relish my seventies/eighties (assuming I get there) and would hope to conclude matters without the indignity of arthritis, incontinence and, ultimately, cancer…health fascists and the religious be damned. Don’t tell me to die in such circumstances to assuage your conscience.
    …but as I said, he made me think. Not an easy one.
    Oh, and my inheritance has been pissed away on a care home owner’s property empire, children’s education and family holidays in Italy. Totally. Our family agree do to work on the basis you get nothing. That takes away the incentive to urge granny to consider popping a few more pills….

  • tartan pimpernel

    Douglas, you are one of the finest journalists in the country.

  • AlbertaProud

    The cheapening of human life may, for the moment, be snarlingly dismissed as “moral relativism”, but it will simply become a reality as we approach peak population. We may in our lifetimes see the high water mark of population this planet can support. At that point we will have to start making some very hard choices, and we’re totally unprepared to do it.
    Do we blindly lurch down a path where resources are stretched thinner and thinner to support more people? Or do we, at some point, start considering how to limit the population so that each can have a standard of living? Once those conversations start, and they will start…then arguments like this will become pointless.

  • MrJones

    One of the problems with all this is the institutions that acted as a brake on our descent into the pit lost their moral authority over things like the paedophile priests.

    Perhaps the Catholic Church could regain some of that authority by becoming the vanguard in overturning the silence over the various Westminster paedophile cover ups.

  • Hamburger

    Another point which was not mentioned is the arrogance in expecting someone to kill you.

  • puffdaddy

    This is also about killing off Europeans and Americans, which no one wants to mention but which is patently obvious from demographics.

  • trace9

    We should legalise it, make all doctors perpared to participate register & when they have, fire the lot. – In a way, they’ll have signed their own death warrants. Scooore!

  • Dominic Stockford

    Still an excellent article.

  • Fraziel

    Its really is very simple, people gravely ill with no hope of recovery or with horrific medical conditions that make their lives unbearable should be allowed to die if they want. What goes on In Belgium or anywhere else is irrelevant as it should not be beyond our politicians to draft a bill that protects people from being euthanised without their consent, although it might be beyond the tories who are only interested in saving money and couldnt give a toss about the lives of the average person, but thats another issue. Religion and religious views should also have no say on this issue. Superstition and unproven no evidence hocus pocus should have no influence in any way on decisions our government makes.

  • Giuseppe Cappa

    We will get the same effect of abortion (i.e. gruesome killing of unborn children): euthanasia will be used to implement the eugenics plan to suppress the poor, the black and similar unwanted (by the socialist elite) categories. In the US the rate of abortions among the black is much higher than the average. Eventually everyone opposing the pol. corr. dogma (including homosexual marriage, income tax, socialist healthcare etc.) will be declared mentally ill and, voilà, suppressed with an injection. At the root of all this lies our government’s atheist and materialistic world view, which considers human beings as heaps of cells or at best as apes.

  • Giuseppe Cappa

    It is almost funny to see idiots calling for the suppression of idiots.

  • wildcolonialboy

    It seems bizarre that the proponents of euthanasia, the doctors, are all so incompetent in terms of ending someone’s life. Taking three or four pills each of one gram of pure heroin and the person would be dead within an hour; they’d just drift off to sleep

    Why do they have to mess about with poisons?

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