‘Assisted dying’ debate: these sick people cost a lot so it’s time to move them on

Matthew Parris, a former member of Parliament, is one of the UK’s leading commentators. It has been said that his columns in the London Times and The Spectator are “essential reading by many in Westminster”.

So when he talks complete rubbish about “assisted dying”, it’s important to put him right.

In a recent article in The Spectator, Parris claimed that “assisted dying is inevitable” although this campaign faces opposition “from religious people who often hide their personal investment in their faith and attach themselves instead to secular and medical claims, aware that ‘God’ does not, these days, clinch a public debate.”

I won’t hide the fact that I have religious convictions, but I speak as someone who has lived with the misery of chronic illness for decades. It’s not the wrath of God that I fear, but the penny-pinching of gods in the National Health Service.

I have Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome (problems with collagen, loose joints), Sjörgren’s, PoTS, dysautonomia and gastroparesis. Together these affect balance, gait, muscle strength, energy production, stamina, digestion, lungs and skin (although thankfully a few bouts of skin cancer have responded to treatment).

I call it SSS – Several Syndromes Syndrome. In Belgium it is called “polypathology” and it is an accepted reason for requesting euthanasia. When it first came on with full force, over 20 years ago, it felt like going suddenly from middle age to old age. Now I have to use walking sticks, a wheelchair and mobility scooter, but I seldom go out and need a long period of recuperation when I do.

These add up to a permanent disability. There is no cure.

But in my experience, doctors did not care. I encountered a signal lack of interest and downright rudeness – one doctor even shouted at me that “they found nothing wrong with you in the tests”. Another asked me: “Why are you walking like that?”

Recently it was quietly decided that people with hypermobility but without constantly dislocating joints do not need specialist care. It took me ten years to get a diagnosis, at my own initiative, after changing doctors several times. Eventually I self-referred to an NHS specialist I read about in the newspaper and after a battery of tests and a miraculous coincidence, finally I got a diagnosis, or rather diagnoses.

Since then I have met with good, caring doctors, but there are no guarantees – doctors are human too.

Even before the Covid pandemic overloaded the health service, I became horribly aware of how convenient some medicos would find it if patients like me simply gave up and went away – preferably permanently. Legalising assisted dying would be the last piece in the puzzle of treating the long-term sick/disabled/elderly – all of whom could all be classed as terminally ill.

If they couldn’t patch us up, they could despatch us. If they couldn’t help us out, they could help us on our way out. It’s a little problem called human nature, common to us all, which means that we cannot trust humans to “safely kill” the weak and helpless.

Matthew Parris is admirably candid about me, or people like me. We should die.

“As to adding pressure upon the terminally ill to lift the burden they’re placing on others… well, let me bite the bullet. In time, I think that the spread and acceptance of assisted dying may indeed do that. And let me bite deeper into the bullet. I think this would be a good thing.”

He explains just how good a thing it is:

“With advances in medical science, humans will get older and older, spending longer and longer as invalids, and with more and more of the last years of their lives in a condition that brings little pleasure and increasing pain. The option to foreshorten this will have to be more easily available and social mores will change to accommodate it.”

Well, thank you, Matthew Parris! Presumably I should book in at a Swiss assisted suicide clinic for next week.

Parris may well have some idea about the reality of living with chronic illness, but it does not show. The instinct to live is very strong, unless people are mentally unwell, in which case we try to prevent their suicides – despite the fact that they might be facing a long life of mental “misery”. And once assisted dying is legalised, logic dictates that, as in Canada (although the next step down the slippery slope has been paused for a while) they will be the next in line for this “benefit”.  

Parris fails to mention any obligation on the rest of society to improve conditions for the aged and infirm and fails to acknowledge that our health service was meant to serve all who need it or might need it in future, funded by everyone. It was not established for the well and wealthy but for the sick and poor.



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There is no need to speculate on what might happen if assisted dying is legalised, for it has already happened, and is still happening, wherever it has been legalised. Those of us who are disabled and/or chronically sick are deeply concerned about this.

Douglas Murray brilliantly highlighted the dangers, also in The Spectator, and if the wider public ever gets to hear about the appalling situation in Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands, it will become less sanguine about the possibility of introducing a scheme of safe killing.

Canada, where Army veterans have been offered euthanasia for chronic illness instead of government services, never figures in calls for assisted dying. Its fans do sometimes mention “safeguards” that will accompany legislation here. Unfortunately for this argument, it has now been admitted that safeguards are included in assisted dying legislation to ensure its safe passage, after which they can be just as safely dismantled – like the Canadian “mental health” exception that accompanied the law’s introduction.

A prominent assisted dying proponent, Charles Falconer, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State under Tony Blair, and now a Labour peer, recently acknowledged: “Canada is being used primarily as an argument against us, not an argument in favour… It does in one sense [represent a slippery slope], doesn’t it, because it started off with terminal illness and it’s ended up with non-terminal illness and mental illness.”

Lord Falconer put forward his own Assisted Dying Bill in 2015, so he should know.

It is certainly very rare for the real reasons for introducing assisted dying to be voiced. I congratulate Mr Parris for blurting out the truth: those tedious enough to take “an unconscionable time dying” – which by definition includes the disabled, chronically sick, most old people and me, for Heaven’s sake -- cost the State lots of money, representing not just a drain on state coffers but also a burden on their nearest and dearest.

Mr Parris is right about one thing. Assisted suicide and euthanasia would indeed become normalised as the strong realise how very useful it is to get rid of the weak. We might become a materially richer society by introducing “euthanomics”, but very much poorer in the way that matters most: our humanity. A society that kills its weak and vulnerable is not the sort of society that most of us care to live in. As G.K. Chesterton observed, it would be a case of “the survival of the fiercest”.

Mr Parris is also openly gay. And he compares the campaign for gay rights to the campaign for assisted dying.

“Opponents argued that it was a slippery slope; that our campaign would lead to demands for total equality of esteem; that homosexuality would burst out all over the place and prove contagious, even popular; and ‘spread’ as a lifestyle choice. Privately I rather agreed with them, but our campaign ducked such a scenario. All we wanted, we argued, was to be left alone. We played down the idea of noisily assertive gay pride, knowing it would hinder, not help, our campaign.’

However, he adds: “I’m old now, wearying of tactics. So on assisted dying I’ll go for honesty.”

I thank him for his honesty. I always told people that the assisted dying crowd was trying to tip me over the slippery slope. Now I can say, I told you so! Not only is the assisted dying slippery slope real, but its advocates are applauding it.

And with an overwhelmed NHS and ever-lengthening queues for treatment, what could possibly go wrong?

Matthew Parris says that assisted dying is inevitable. Well, dying is certainly inevitable, but killing as an economy measure – euthanomics -- is not.

Ann Farmer writes from the United Kingdom.

Image: Campaign for Dying in Dignity UK website



Showing 25 reactions

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  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-22 11:15:23 +1100
    Ms Farmer, always a pleasure to hear from you :)

    You asked about my antipathy to Christianity.

    I want to distinguish between the institution of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus.

    My antipathy is to the former, not the latter. I really do admire a man who says anything along the following lines:

    Jesus then said to his disciples, “Anyone who wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. (Mt16:24)

    Not “I’ll make you rich” but “I’ll get you crucified”.

    Have you ever studied the context of Jesus’ attack on the money changers and livestock vendors in the “Court of the Gentiles”? Do you know who owned the livestock vendors?
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-22 10:04:44 +1100
    Mr Meyer, I have come across the translation problems re. ‘carpenter’, etc. Hebrew is a very old, basic language that we struggle to translate accurately because our own is so much more complex. I just presume that in a little, poor village like Nazareth, wooden objects would be more in demand. Yes, translation is a big problem, and so is verifying the statements attributed to famous figures, especially when their words are not written down perhaps for centuries, although the books of the Bible were said to have been handed down in oral form for generations long before they were written down. If certain people were very well known, perhaps no one saw the need to write down their stories. Now the lack of ‘evidence’ suggests to us that these people were obscure or even non-existent. And the ‘information age’ can also be the ‘disinformation age’, so perhaps quality will lose out to quality!
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-19 10:51:08 +1100
    Ms Farmer:

    the Quoin Greek word we translate as “carpenter” can equally be translated as “craftsman” or “artisan”. It could just as much refer to someone who worked with stone as with wood. It could be that the firm of Joseph & Son were builders rather than carpenters as we understand the term today. Stone was the main construction material in that part of the world at that time.

    On the other hand the word for “yoke” does seem to refer to the sort of thing you would attach to the donkeys that powered olive presses. So from Mt 11:29-30:

    29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

    30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    That does seem to be the sort of imagery that someone who worked with wood could have used. It’s not strong evidence but it does suggest that Jesus was they type of artisan who worked with wood – eg a carpenter. Of course he might not have worked exclusively with wood.

    The only point I am trying to make is that translating ancient texts into modern vernacular is very difficult. Every translation is also an interpretation and we should always understand that our interpretation could be wrong.

    Look this is all very difficult. I once challenged a scholar of Greek philosophy, and an atheist, to prove to me that Socrates was not Plato’s invention, that he really existed. He finally conceded that the evidence for Socrates was slender.

    But it gets worse. What do we know about the lives of the ancient Greek philosophers other than what appears in their own writings? Well I once tried to find out. And you get “attribution chains”. So

    A quotes B who quotes C who quotes D.

    Dut where does D get his information.

    Well every single one of the attribution chains I traced ended in one book, “Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers” by Diogenes Laertes. He wrote it in about AD 250 +- 30. In other words, hundred of years after the ancient Greek philosophers were laid to rest in their ancient graves.

    And how did Diogenes come by all this information?

    We don’t know. We’re just taking him at his word that he does know.

    Figuring out who said what a long time ago and what they meant is hard.

    And with the advent of deep fakes, figuring out who said what yesterday can also be hard. We are headed for an information dark age.
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-19 09:55:47 +1100
    Mr Meyer, many thanks. Regarding the query over ‘strengthening the robbed’, ‘rescuing the oppressed’, ‘rescuing anyone who has been wronged’, etc., I suppose that could apply to many situations, from helping a victim of crime to helping a victim of exploitation, low wages, etc.
    As to the question of social justice as expressed in the Bible, from what I have read, killing the innocent was always seen as wrong – seen as murder, whereas in matters of defence and criminal justice killing was permitted. It is true that the ancients would not have confused sexual acts with individually chosen human ‘identities’ but would have seen them simply as acts.
    As to ‘Jesus the carpenter’, my own reading is that a good son would follow his father, so it was presumed that Jesus was at least trained as a carpenter, although the Gospels do not mention him working in this capacity; and when found in the Temple at age 12 he reminded Mary and Joseph that he must be about his father’s business, i.e. not Joseph’s but his Heavenly Father. When he spoke about himself as ‘son of God’ it could be assumed by his hearers that he was simply doing God’s will; similarly when people were accused of being ‘a son of Satan’ they were assumed to be doing Satan’s will. It was when he referred to himself as God’s only son that he was accused of blasphemy.
    I agree with Pius XII on the necessity of reading the Gospel writers in the context of their history and their own times; that was why, when I was writing weekly commentaries on the Gospels for Catholic publications, I began to study the historical and cultural contexts of the Bible, which led to pursuing a Catholic course on the subject, and when that was unexpectedly cancelled, a course on Jewish-Christian relations at a new centre in Cambridge, which in turn led to a degree in the subject. It was very good on historical anti-Semitism, although of necessity not as in-depth in all areas as one could have wished, and I must congratulate you on your own in-depth Bible knowledge. You should really consider writing your own book! BTW, is your antipathy to Christianity related to anti-Semitism?
    It has always struck me that a small obscure itinerant tribe – the Hebrews – should have achieved so much, suggesting divine revelation. While all the other tribes were bowing down to a whole range of gods, the Hebrews, like the little boy who noticed the Emperor’s lack of clothing, pointed out that these ‘gods’ were made by men’s hands – the gods did not make the men, the men made the gods. And the very fact that this ‘little, lonely people’ (as G. K. Chesterton described them) should have survived to this day is itself a miracle, although sadly, as we see, under constant threat.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-17 14:18:04 +1100
    Well, so we’ve drifted. So what? I’m enjoying this interchange and, I hope, so are you.

    Read Numbers 28. You will see very precise instructions for sacrifices the Israelites are supposed to make.

    Now go to Isaiah Chapter 1 verses 11-16 and remember, Isaiah is writing about eight centuries after the Book of Numbers.

    11 Of what use are your many sacrifices to Me? says the Lord. I am sated with the burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle; and the blood of bulls and sheep and hegoats I do not want.

    12 When you come to appear before Me, who requested this of you, to trample My courts?

    13 You shall no longer bring vain meal-offerings, it is smoke of abomination to Me; New Moons and Sabbaths, calling convocations, I cannot [bear] iniquity with assembly.

    14 Your New Moons and your appointed seasons My soul hates, they are a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing [them].

    15 And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you, even when you pray at length, I do not hear; your hands are full of blood.

    16 Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease to do evil.

    So, OK “cleanse yourself”, “remove evil”. What does this mean? What must you do to cleanse yourself? What are these evils you must remover?

    We get it in a single verse:

    17 Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the robbed, perform justice for the orphan, plead the case of the widow.

    To put it another way, these rituals are meaningless, offensive even, if you do not seek justice. And justice is not just punishing the wicked, It includes protecting the interests of the widows and orphans.

    So, in 800 years, we go from a huge emphasis on ritual to something that is beginning to look like a focus on what today we call social justice.

    But what does “strengthen the robbed” mean.

    Well I used a translation from a Jewish source. Here is the Catholic translation from New Catholic Bible

    “learn to do good Pursue justice and rescue the oppressed; listen to the plea of the orphan and defend the widow.”

    Except for the bit about “strengthen the robbed” the Catholic translation conveys the same message even if the wording is different.

    But how did “strengthen the robbed” become “rescue the oppressed”.

    Just to add to the confusion, I doubt a fluent modern Hebrew speaker who knows nothing about Biblical Hebrew would be able to translate that passage at all. The closest he could get would probably be along the lines of “Bring joy the yeast”.

    A literal translation of the Biblical Hebrew is probably along the lines of “make happy the robbed.” .

    But to sum up:

    The Jewish sourced translation I used is probably as close to a literal English translation as you can get.

    The Catholic translation includes an interpretation. The message of the passage is not specifically someone who has been robbed, but anyone who is oppressed.

    My own personal interpretation is “Rescue anyone who has been wronged.” Most Jewish commentators would agree with me.

    What’s the difference?

    You could argue that everyone who is oppressed is also wronged. But not everyone who has been wronged is oppressed. A burglar is not the same as an oppressor. The Catholic translation seems to me to be bowing to fashionable use of language.

    OK, I’m trying to make three points here.

    Every translation is also an interpretation. Literalism is fine if you’re translating a recipe for potato latkes. But it won’t do for Shakespeare.

    The second is to put forward the thesis that the collection of texts that is the Bible demonstrates the evolution of the human – repeat human – understanding of God.

    As regards the second, remember that Christians do not believe that the contents of the Bible were transmitted word for word, syllable for syllable, phoneme for phoneme from God to the scribes. That’s what Muslims believe about the koran. But the Bible is not a koran. Instead the men – they were men – who wrote these texts were divinely inspired. As regards the first, we need to understand not merely the language but how the men who wrote the texts thought about the world. To use a German word, we need to understand their “Kopfkino”, the movie they have going through their heads.

    Whatever you think of Pius XII, no one would accuse him of being “post modern” or “woke”. And he seems to agree with me. Here’s what he wrote: 35. What is the literal sense of a passage is not always as obvious in the speeches and writings of the ancient authors of the East, as it is in the works of our own time. For what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use. 36. For the ancient peoples of the East, in order to express their ideas, did not always employ those forms or kinds of speech which we use today; but rather those used by the men of their times and countries. What those exactly were the commentator cannot determine as it were in advance, but only after a careful examination of the ancient literature of the East. The investigation, carried out, on this point, during the past forty or fifty years with greater care and diligence than ever before, has more clearly shown what forms of expression were used in those far off times, whether in poetic description or in the formulation of laws and rules of life or in recording the facts and events of history. The same inquiry has also shown the special preeminence of the people of Israel among all the other ancient nations of the East in their mode of compiling history, both by reason of its antiquity and by reasons of the faithful record of the events; qualities which may well be attributed to the gift of divine inspiration and to the peculiar religious purpose of biblical history.


    (Just to make matters even more confusing this is an English translation. Pius’ “Kopfkino” probably ran in Italian. So how well does the translation transmit his message?)

    Incidentally the reason all this is fresh in my mind is as follows: I was approached by a Catholic author who is writing a book about the Bible for some help in translating certain Hebrew texts. One thing led to another and we’ve been in constant contact.

    The author is a devout Catholic and takes the faith very seriously. So far, at any rate, there has been no attempt to convert me.

    I have not hidden my antipathy to Christianity and the author has not taken it personally.

    Bottom line: be careful what you are reading into Biblical texts.

    1 Timothy 10 from New International Version:

    “for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine”

    There is no word for homosexuality in Quoin Greek. Our notions of sexual orientation would have had the ancient Greeks scratching their ancient heads.

    The New Catholic Bible uses “Sodomites” which the ancients Greeks would find even more confusing.

    What I rather like is that slave traders, and perjurers are thrown in with what is contrary to “sound doctrine.” And what the ancient Greeks would have made of “sound doctrine” is anyone’s guess.

    Was the firm of Joseph & Son in the carpentry business as we understand the word today?

    If Jesus was a carpenter he probably made yokes for donkeys. So when he said “My yoke is light” did he mean it literally as well as figuratively?

    Just in case you thought NT was easier to translate.
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-17 09:54:10 +1100
    Mr Meyer, many thanks, and for the reference to St Anselm – very interesting. I feel we have drifted away from the subject of euthanasia somewhat, but I agree with you that Christianity mainstreamed the idea of individual human worth. Funnily enough today’s Mass reading from Isaiah 58 highlights this:

    Thus says the Lord: Shout for all you are worth, raise your voice like a trumpet. Proclaim their faults to my people, their sins to the House of Jacob. They seek me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that wants to act with integrity and not ignore the law of its God. They ask me for laws that are just, they long for God to draw near: ‘Why should we fast if you never see it, why do penance if you never notice?’ Look, you do business on your fast days, you oppress all your workmen; look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast and strike the poor man with your fist. Fasting like yours today will never make your voice heard on high. Is that the sort of fast that pleases me, a truly penitential day for men? Hanging your head like a reed, lying down on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me – it is the Lord who speaks – to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke, to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the man you see to be naked and not turn from your own king? Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you. Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’
    But I think the declining birth rate is more a matter of material circumstances than genetics. Clearly, as you say, the release of artificial hormones likely has a role to play in wider human health as well as directly controlling the fertility of individuals. The eugenics population control movement identified various economic factors that they believed would reduce the birth rate, although they believed that poor people were innately inferior, which was why they had more children than they could afford – ‘swarming like insects’. Pace Darwin, they didn’t think that having large families was evidence of people being fitter, but of being unfit! Chesterton would call it ‘the survival of the fiercest’, by the way. I have seen references to the idea that those who most zealously promote childlessness or fewer children will end up losing out to religious people who have more children; whether the latter will end up inheriting the earth (at least in this life) is a moot point – but well done for annoying your fellow atheists for pointing it out! I do find it interesting that Jews and Christians, who believe in eternal life, heavenly bliss, etc., are for the most part keen to hang on to this life, whereas atheists, who believe there is only one life, are generally keener to go. We both want a better world, which must be a good thing, although Christians hope that by working for that we will get to Heaven, whereas atheists are simply doing it for its own sake. So as Jesus taught, we may see the atheists going into Heaven before us! Thanks once again, and best wishes to you.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-16 14:19:06 +1100
    Ms Farmer wrote:

    “And in the very fact that God, in the person of Jesus, chose to be born as an (apparently) ordinary human child …”

    Out of interest, did you ever read Anselm of Canterbury’s “Cur deo homo” (Why God man)?

    It’s Anselm’s answer to why God got himself incarnated as a man. Fascinating reading from 1,000 years ago. Available in English translation.


    Reading what people thought so long ago is always interesting
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-15 13:51:32 +1100
    Ms Farmer, I think we’ve both had our say on abortion and neither of us is going to convince the other.

    How did the idea of individual human worth go mainstream?

    Yes Jews had the idea. But we were, and some conspiracy stories notwithstanding, remain, a powerless minority. If some Jews’ ideas went mainstream it is because the non-Jewish majority picked up on them. Exhibit A is, of course, that bearded guy you all love to hate.

    So far as I can tell Gregory of Nyssa was the first man with some power or influence to make the idea of individual human worth an important issue. It’s as if he lit a slow fuse on a bomb that eventually exploded.

    A century later we see glimmers of every man deserving his due in Augustine’s “City of God”.

    Don’t get me wrong. Augustine was far from being a social democrat. But he was a good bit more enlightened, by our standards, then what went before.

    On reflection I would say this:

    Christians did not originate the idea of individual human worth.

    But it was Christians who mainstreamed it and, perhaps indirectly, gave birth to the idea of human rights.

    Just in passing, this does not make me an admirer of contemporary Christianity.


    By definition, childless women do not contribute to the future gene pool. Women who have 2+ children contribute more than women with only a single child.

    Now, if the propensity to have children has a genetic component, and I would be utterly gobsmacked it it didn’t, the trend of lower fertility will reverse itself. Which is why I am fairly sanguine about lower fertility.

    But here is an important caveat.

    There is a herd of elephants in the room defecating on the carpet that almost everyone is trying to ignore. And here it is.

    Sperm counts and quality, and human egg quality are declining. Things people do not like discussing like “anno-genital” distance, are changing.

    We are not certain of the cause. But a likely suspect is the cocktail of chemicals we have released into the environment that mimic human hormones. What effects these are having on things like human sexual desire or emotions is anyone’s guess.

    Obesity and sedentary lifestyles also likely play a role.

    Of course there are exceptions. Just as some people have an innate resistance to certain viruses, so some people will resist the chemical cocktail that pollutes us.

    And not everyone is sedentary or obese.

    In the end it will, as ever, be survival of the “fittest”. And “fittest” in evolutionary terms means “ability to produce the most offspring.”

    In other words, Darwin rules. If the human race goes extinct it will not be because we all decided not to have babies. But our numbers will most likely dip.

    Now a propensity to be religious probably has some Darwinian fitness value if it is associated with a propensity to have more babies. So it looks as if the religious shall inherit the earth.

    My fellow atheists hate it when I point this out.
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-15 09:41:01 +1100
    Mrs Cracker, many thanks for your helpful comments.
    Mr Meyer, impressive grasp of the teaching of Gregory of Nyssa! The Jewish religion was radical in valuing human life, not just property. And in the very fact that God, in the person of Jesus, chose to be born as an (apparently) ordinary human child was radical as well as risky, being helpless and at the mercy of powerful men like King Herod who did not hesitate to slay the Holy Innocents in order (as he believed) to put a stop to a challenge to his throne. The fact that not all human beings have valued children does not detract from that, and if in the present age we discriminate against children based on their place of residence – the womb – we are even worse than those who throughout history have not valued children, for we are living in much more materially affluent times. I think it would be a very good idea to pass laws mandating the care of pregnant mothers and their unborn children along with laws forbidding abortion; but if we say ‘until that happens, we must allow abortion’, nothing will change, for as things stand, the ‘solution’ to poverty is abortion. Just as the ‘solution’ to the elderly/disabled/sick is, of course, assisted suicide/euthanasia.
  • mrscracker
    “And don’t tell me about what happened historically or people parking caravans outside their parents’ homes or what the Amish do. I mean help for people as most of us live today”
    Well Mr. Steven that does reflect upon the culture where one lives & worries about trailer homes are more of a First World issue. It’s funny because tiny homes/trailer homes are becoming a trendy thing amongst Western young people & those who are retired. They can serve young families, also.
    Surely you don’t believe that religion is required to oppose human rights offenses like segregation? We did have people of different faiths working against segregation laws back in the day but not everyone doing that was a believer. I think we all have a God given conscience whether we understand that or not. Sadly, not all of us listen to our conscience.

    And just a PS, Thomas Jefferson isn’t my favorite US president but there’s no DNA science that can prove he fathered any children with his late wife’s half-sister. The DNA shows that he could have fathered one male child of Sally Hemmings but so could anyone with that same paternal DNA haplotype. And that YDNA haplotype was not only shared by Jefferson’s paternal male kin but by a number of other folks in colonial Virginia. Jefferson’s not really my hero but I don’t like slander based on conjecture & gossip.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-13 15:02:55 +1100
    OK, in my previous post I got carried away. I wrote a lot more than intended,

    But if you read anything, read what Gregory of Nyssa had to say. Here’s the link:


    This is the earliest instance I can find of people with actual power ascribing a unique worth to every human.

    If someone can find something earlier let me know and I’ll ask Peter Cook to to delete my post and I’ll issue a correction.

    But for now it really does look to me as if the whole human rights thing started there with Gregory.

    And I do not resile from my position: American Catholics abandoned their own social justice tradition for the teachings of the Republican Party and fraudsters like Peterson and Prager.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-13 14:34:04 +1100
    mrscracker and Ms Farmer

    “Surely one can believe in human rights reforms without being required to believe in a particular religious doctrine ?”

    Now that is a very interesting question mrscracker. I’m not sure of the answer.

    Throughout most of human history there was no such thing as human rights. Once we stopped being hunter-gatherers and started living in settled communities, slavery, serfdom etc became the norm.

    So how did this change? How did we even get the concept of human rights?

    The short answer is that the Catholic Church changed it.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    Let’s go back to Old Testament times. In fact let’s go to Genesis 19:4-8:

    4 When they had not yet retired, and the people of the city, the people of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, the entire populace from every end [of the city].

    5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, and let us be intimate with them.”

    6 And Lot came out to them to the entrance, and he shut the door behind him.

    7 And he said, "My brethren, please do not do evil.

    8 Behold now I have two daughters who were not intimate with a man. I will bring them out to you, and do to them as you see fit; only to these men do nothing, because they have come under the shadow of my roof."

    So Lot Is offering his daughters to be raped and, perhaps killed, to protect his male guests.

    Atheists love quoting this and it sounds shocking.

    But I am not shocked because that’s the way it was. Women were not regarded as quite human. Sacrificing a couple of virgin girls to protect male guests would have been an easy decision.

    Consider this from Exodus 21:

    2 Should you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall work [for] six years, and in the seventh [year], he shall go out to freedom without charge.

    7 Now if a man sells his daughter as a maidservant, she shall not go free as the slaves go free.

    Again, shocking to us but normal then.

    It was like that all over the Mediterranean at least. We talk about Greek city states being “democracies”. But slaves had no rights and women precious few. Their job was to run the household and bear children. And, very often, to die in childbirth.

    In Sparta every newborn baby was brought to a council to see whether it was healthy. If not it was tossed into a ravine.

    In fact the whole concept of marriage as we understand it today did not exist. Biblical Hebrew did have words for husband and wife. It was simply man (Ish) and woman Ishah). And the woman was very much under the thumb of the man.

    Again from Exodus 21:

    22 And should men quarrel and hit a pregnant woman, and she miscarries but there is no fatality, he shall surely be punished, when the woman’s husband makes demands of him, and he shall give [restitution] according to the judges’ [orders].

    23 But if there is a fatality, you shall give a life for a life,

    First, notice the man gets to make demands. He has to be compensated for the value of the fetus.

    Second, the miscarriage is not regarded as a fatality. Verse 23 refers to the woman being killed.

    (In passing: This eye for eye, life for life etc has usually been regarded by Jewish scholars as referring to monetary compensation. In the light of other verses this does make sense. It is mostly Christians who’ve interpreted it literally)

    So why was a wife, to use modern terminology, special? Why have betrothal at all. How was a wife different from a concubine?

    The wife’s male offspring could inherit. It was all about inheritance and property.

    The offspring of a concubine or female slave had no inheritance rights.

    Having dealt with women, let’s see what it meant to be a slave.

    Slaves were property. The master, not the mistress, could do with them more or less what they liked. The bible does give them some limited rights. For example, from Exodus 21 again.

    2 Should you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall work [for] six years, and in the seventh [year], he shall go out to freedom without charge.

    4 If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.

    20 And should a man strike his manservant or his maidservant with a rod, and [that one] die under his hand, he shall surely be avenged.

    21 But if he survives for a day or for two days, he shall not be avenged, because he is his property.

    26 And if a man strikes the eye of his manservant or the eye of his maidservant and destroys it, he shall set him free in return for his eye,

    27 and if he knocks out the tooth of his manservant or the tooth of his maidservant, he shall set him free in return for his tooth.

    In the context of the times this was actually quite enlightened.

    The Greek and Roman worlds were less “enlightened”. The master could do anything to his slaves including have sex with them. Apparently they did it frequently with both girls and boys.

    Romans, of course, could and did crucify disobedient slaves. That’s what made Jesus’ crucifixion so shocking. “A stumbling block to Jews” but “foolishness to Gentiles.” Jews might be offended at the thought of a messiah hanging naked on a cross but for the Greeks and Romans it just sounded absurd.

    In the ante-bellum South, master frequently had sex with their slaves.. DNA does not lie. Even that Great America Humbug, Thomas Jefferson, had a concubine.

    So when did all this change?

    Let’s start with Gregory of Nyssa (335-395). Here’s a portion of his Homilies on Ecclesiastes: “I got me slaves and slave-girls.” Tell me what sort of price you paid. What did you find in creation with a value corresponding to the nature of your purchase? What price did you put on rationality? For how many obols did you value the image of God? For how many coins did you sell this nature formed by God? God said: “Let us make human beings in our own image and likeness” (Gen 1.26). When we are talking about one who is in the image of God, who has dominion over the whole earth and who has been granted by God authority over everything on the earth, tell me, who is the seller and who the buyer? Only God has this kind of power, or, one might almost say, not even God. For scripture says that the gifts of God are irrevocable (Romans 11.29). God would not make a slave of humankind. It was God who, through his own will, called us back to freedom when we were slaves of sin. If God does not enslave a free person, then who would consider their own authority higher than God’s?

    How can people be sold who have dominion over the earth and everything on the earth? It is essential that the assets of people being sold are sold with them. How can we value the contents of the whole earth (Genesis 1.26)? If these are beyond any valuation then tell me, what is the value of the one who is over them? If you said “the world in its entirety”, even then you would not have found anything approximating to the value (Matthew 16.26; Mark 8.36). Someone knowing the true value of human nature said that not even the whole world is worth enough to be given in exchange for the human soul. So when a human being is for sale, it is nothing other than the lord of the earth being brought to the auction room. This means that creation as we know it is at the same time being put up for public sale. That is earth, sea and islands and all that is in them. How then is the purchaser going to settle the payment? What will the vendor accept considering the greatness of the property involved in the transaction?

    (See https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/gregoryofnyss_ecclesiastes_slavery.htm)

    Short version:

    If man is made in God’s image how can he be bought and sold?

    For Catholics it started there. They took seriously the idea that every single human being had value because he or she was made in “God’s image”. It was, at the time, a unique perspective for people with actual power.

    You might say it was also a Jewish perspective. True. But Jews had no power. Once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire Christians had power.

    As you can see Gregory questions whether even God, having made Man in his own image, has the power to buy and sell humans.

    I submit it all started there with Gregory.

    From that a whole literature of Catholic social justice teaching bloomed. If you want to know what it’s about try any book by Thomas Massaro SJ.


    Sadly, American Catholics seem to have abandoned the Catholic Social Justice tradition for the teachings of the Republican Party. Whenever Pope Francis talks about social justice he’s called a Marxist or worse.

    OK, I got carried away and wrote much more than I intended.

    But here are the bottom lines:

    Tell me at what point a zygote (single fertilised egg) becomes a human. Justify your answer scientifically without any reference to religion. If you say “on conception” please explain how a single cell can be a human without any reference to anything supernatural or religious.

    Until you pay at least as much attention to the fate of born children as you do the fate of the unborn I will continue to regard you as despicable hypocrites.

    You can show this by insisting that any legislation banning abortion is accompanied by legislation helping mothers cope with born children.

    And don’t tell me about what happened historically or people parking caravans outside their parents’ homes or what the Amish do. I mean help for people as most of us live today.

    Historically you would have been lucky if half your kids made it to maturity.
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-13 10:27:53 +1100
    Mr Meyer, many thanks. I don’t know anyone who talks about ‘ensoulment’ these days apart from abortion advocates, apparently with the aim of undermining abortion critics. Any exceptions to abortion laws tend to undermine the fundamental right to life of all persons, as enshrined in 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; neither do they help pregnant mothers.
    Of course, centuries ago, with no pregnancy tests, foetal movement was a sure sign of pregnancy. But isn’t it strange that the feast of the Annunciation of Jesus’ conception happens on 25th March, 9 months before Christmas Day, the feast day of his birth. According to the Catholic Catechism Para. 2270, each individual’s right to life should be respected from conception. So, yes, there is a religious influence on the belief of life beginning at birth; but it’s also the most scientific line we can draw, because no life exists before this point. Disagreements about when life begins affect all of us, undermining everyone’s right to life. And similarly, exceptions to the homicide laws, i.e. allowing people to kill themselves/be killed providing they are sick/disabled/old, undermines everyone’s right to life.

    Mrs Cracker, many thanks – yes, it is possible for anyone who believes in human rights to defend the right to life for all.
  • mrscracker
    “Many Christians come up with rationalisations that do not involve a soul. But non-Christians, like me, easily see through them so let’s not go there.”

    Surely one can believe in human rights reforms without being required to believe in a particular religious doctrine ?
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-11 16:27:03 +1100
    Ms Farmer,

    You wrote:

    “I believe in helping the poor and helping poor women have their babies instead of being coerced by poverty and/or other people into having them killed.”

    Strongly agree. I want there to be realistic better options available to women. That does require state intervention and taxpayers’ money. It will impact the profits of businesses.

    You wrote:

    “but abortion advocates in the Party were just as determined to ‘cancel’ us even before cancelling was invented”

    Why do you need a political party in the first place? Appeal directly to the public. Your goal is to make abortion unnecessary. Say it.

    Where we part company is that I do not want to make abortion illegal.

    And this is where you will face problems. I think you will find there are many people like me who want to make abortion unnecessary but will never sign up to making it illegal. You can work with us or against us. Your choice.

    And now I want to give a perspective.

    Some Protestant denominations have a doctrine of “ensoulment on conception.” The Catholic Church as ever is more verbose but it amounts to the same thing. They believe a fertilised egg has an immortal soul.

    Thing is you can offer no evidence that such a thing as a soul in the Christian sense of the word exists. I certainly don’t believe it. To atheists like me it’s a fairy tale.

    So Christians want to impose restrictions on what women can do based solely on their belief in something whose existence is questionable to say the least.

    Do you understand why there will be push back on this?

    Many Christians come up with rationalisations that do not involve a soul. But non-Christians, like me, easily see through them so let’s not go there.

    I’m guessing that’s why your fellow Labour Party members found your point of view unacceptable.

    As would I.
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-10 09:57:41 +1100
    Mr Meyer, I am not familiar with the attitudes/political persuasions of all Christians, but in my own case I believe in helping the poor and helping poor women have their babies instead of being coerced by poverty and/or other people into having them killed. For many years I was the editor of the Labour Life Group News, a magazine for pro-life members of the Labour Party. We were a small, determined band, but abortion advocates in the Party were just as determined to ‘cancel’ us even before cancelling was invented. Now some Labour MPs want to decriminalise abortion altogether, such that women discarding dead babies aborted with abortion pills should not be prosecuted or even investigated. Needless to say, the LLG was also against assisted suicide/euthanasia, a dire threat to public safety.
    Killing unborn babies is always wrong, and if we do advocate for more help for mothers as our response to poverty, it will not impact on the arguments of abortion advocates because abortion IS their answer.
    Admittedly there is a ‘consent’ argument to be made regarding assisted suicide, because unlike competent adults, unborn babies cannot consent to be killed; however, neither can sick/disabled/elderly people freely consent to being helped to die, aka be killed, because of their vulnerable condition. I am sure we can both agree that there is no safe way to kill people.
  • mrscracker
    From one of those Christians who voted for Trump, thank you for sharing Matthew 25 here. That’s one of my favorite passages in scripture & what I chose for the gospel reading at my husband’s funeral mass.
    Public servants in govt. aren’t idols to be worshipped, they simply serve us in their duties no differently than municipal rubbish collectors do. In fact rubbish collectors often perform a more important service than our politicians. If a public servant fails to serve us properly we replace them. It shouldn’t be anymore complicated than that.
    When the American colonies rejected the monarchy they just replaced the Crown with a president & “First Lady.” I think we’re still a bit confused overall.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-09 16:00:39 +1100
    Ms Farmer, what you call the TPP I call corpocracy, government of, by and for the people who own or control large corporations.

    And in case you hadn’t noticed, if you’re in Australia, the UK or the US you are now living in corpocracy.

    How did it come to this?

    In the US especially it in part because of the gullibility of people who identify as Christian.

    They wanted a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v Wade. That was part of their rationale for supporting Donald Trump and the Republicans.

    Well they got judges that overturned Roe v Wade. Those same judges invariably decide in favour of the owners and controllers of large corporations, the corpocrats. It was all a Trojan Horse operation. Use the issue of abortion to smuggle in judges who would side with the corpocrats.

    Do you think that Darren Woods supports the Republicans because he cares an iota whether Josphine Sixpack has an abortion?

    Of course not. He wants the unfettered right to make ever more money regardless of the effects on the rest of society. And let’s face it, middle=class women are not affected by abortion bans in their states. They can go to another state or, maybe, to Canada just as many Irish women used to go to the UK for abortions.

    I used to define the differences between “conservative” and “liberal” as follows:

    Conservative: Someone who cares deeply about the welfare of children provided the children are unborn

    Liberal: Someone who cares deeply about the welfare of children provided the children are born in another country

    In other words, both are hypocrites.

    the point is that Christians who professed to be so concerned about unborn children could equally have demanded assistance for born children suffering distress. But they didn’t. And therefore I cannot take them seriously.

    Of course it’s not entirely because of Christians. There is never a shortage of gullible voters who believe that some charismatic “strong man” can sweep aside all the difficulties and provide quick fixes.

    But Christians play a big role in the success of Donald Trump and the Republicans.

    Jesus said (Mt:25:34-46)

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

    35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me;

    36 I was naked and you clothed me; I was ill and you took care of me; I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will say to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you something to eat, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

    38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

    39 When did we see you ill or in prison and come to visit you?’

    40 And the King will answer, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brethren of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

    42 For I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat; I was thirsty and you did not give me anything to drink;

    43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me; I was naked and you did not give me any clothing; I was ill and in prison and you did not visit me.’

    44 “Then they will ask him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison and not minister to you?’

    45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you failed to do for one of the least of these brethren of mine, you failed to do for me.’

    46 And they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous will enter eternal life.”

    Looks like Jesus, among other things, was a (shudder) social justice warrior.

    And this is where I have my problem with Christians. As a group you never seem to follow the teachings of the one you purport to worship.

    Yes I understand your problems with abortion and euthanasia. In the case of abortion I even have sympathy for your point of view. In the case of euthanasia not so much though I abhor the thought of governments putting pressure on people to kill themselves because it would be good for the economy.

    But you Christians never seem to understand that we have a systemic problem. And part of that problem is unregulated capitalism. and what I can only call GDP worship.

    And you seem to have an enormous ability to ignore the dangers posed by global warming, by pollution generally, by zoning laws that favour the wealthy and by the erosion of the tax base.

    I think if Jesus were to return he would class most Christians as latter day Pharisees.
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-09 09:26:14 +1100
    mrscracker, you are very welcome – God bless you too.
  • mrscracker
    You are very welcome, Miss Ann. Thank you so much for writing about this important issue & God bless you!
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-09 07:16:34 +1100
    MRSCRACKER, many thanks – a very interesting perspective.
  • mrscracker
    Understaffed care homes, like care homes themselves, are more a First World issue. Elderly folk in the States who retire in Mexico can also end up in Mexican assisted living homes. Virtually all the residents in these facilities are US citizens, not Mexicans. When the staff are asked about this they volunteer that Mexicans take care of their own parents/grandparents at home.
    As the Mexican economy continues to grow perhaps the culture will also change to become more like the States. I hope not.
  • Ann Farmer
    commented 2024-02-08 20:26:51 +1100
    Mr Meyer, I am more than aware of the problems you mention and have spent a lot of time researching and writing about them. Western societies are now enjoying the fruits of older generations that were materially worse off than us, but now they need help we are starting to purse our lips and count the cost of caring. Where I differ is that I do not believe in killing the weak – and thanks to several decades of killing the weak, aka abortion, millions of people are not alive to care for the ageing. I call it the TPP – the Taxpayers Prevention Programme. As you say, encouraging people to have children when they simply represent a loss rather than a gain is an uphill task, but introducing assisted suicide/euthanasia – as has happened in many places, we can’t say we don’t know what would happen – would, I believe, be an economic disaster as well as a disaster for social relations. We would simply look for more categories of people to kill. Anyway, that is my view. By all means discuss the best ways of paying for the care of the helpless, but not as a sideways move towards legalising their murder.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-08 13:57:02 +1100
    Ms Farmer, I am sorry to hear about your medical condition.

    “It’s not the wrath of God that I fear, but the penny-pinching of gods in the National Health Service.”

    They’re penny pinching because they have a limited budget. In relation to needs the NHS is underfunded. Its bureaucracy is top heavy but even if admin costs were pared back to reasonable levels it would not be able to meet everyone’s needs.

    Note that the godless Clement Attlee’s government implemented the NHS.

    Note also that back then the Anglican and Catholic Churches in the UK supported a “welfare state.” Both churches were well to the “left” in economic matters.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-08 13:34:36 +1100
    Of course there was always an economic aspect to euthanasia and, like Ann Farmer, I’m glad someone is being honest.

    So let’s have some more honesty.

    In Australia aged care facilities are mostly staffed by people who are undertrained, underpaid and overworked. The appalling consequences of this became apparent when Covid19 swept through these facilities like an Australian wildfire.

    Terrible isn’t it. “Something must be done.”

    Yes, definitely, something must be done. We all agreed at the time.

    But what?

    Well, we could upgrade the facilities, provide better training for the staff, increase the number of staff so they are not overworked. All this will cost money. It will meaning raising the subsidies the private operators get from the Federal Government. To fund it we might need to raise taxes. To ensure the extra money is not just pocketed by the operators we might need more regulatory oversight

    Wait. What did I just say? Raise taxes? More regulations? Bigger government?

    Out of the question. Government is evil. Regulation is bad for business. Am I some sort of evil, godless (shudder) Marxist?

    I confess to being godless but, to continue, it’s only going to get worse as the proportion of old people rises.

    Well, maybe we can encourage women to have more babies and spread the load.

    Good luck with that. I cannot think of a single country that has raised fertility above replacement after a prolonged period of below replacement fertility. Victor Orban was once the great hope. However, Hungary’s fertility remains at about the European average (about 1.5). In reality Orban is a corrupt wannabe Mussolini running a corrupt government. The “conservatives” who rushed to praise him are as stupid as the lefties who punted Hugo Chavez as the great hope for humanity.

    So what are we going to do about demography? Because this is largely a demographic issue. If we did not have a burgeoning elder population there would be no economic need to encourage people to take the cheap way out.

    Now what?

    I don’t know.

    But focusing on euthanasia or assisted suicide or whatever you want to call it without considering the costs of health and elder care, taxation, the factors that stop women having more babies, government regulation, zoning laws, immigration etc is like focusing on vitamins without considering all the other nutrients you need. This is a societal issue and it may, almost certainly will, require changes to society.

    Let’s have an adult discussion. Let’s not pretend we know the answers because we don’t. Let’s stop pretending our ideologies or religious beliefs provide all the answers.

    And let’s not pretend the carrying capacity of our planet is infinite.

    In other words, let’s be really honest about everything.

    And Christians especially need to understand that mindlessly supporting so-called “conservative” parties is only going to make things worse.