Would you ask for euthanasia just because you hated to mow your lawn?
I’ve just read a letter to the editor of the Daily Mail which exemplifies everything that is heartless and brainless about the right-to-die movement.
Yesterday R. J. Andrews wrote that he was “thinking of bumping myself off in the next year”.
Why? Well, he is honest enough to acknowledge that he is “not one of those whom the State obliges to live in terrible pain”.
But if that is not the reason, what is? It is this: he knows he has “accomplished all I want to; my ears and eyes are fading; and I’m fed up with mowing the lawn”.
Furthermore, he can’t see why he “should have to go through the discomfort of any of the usual methods when a medic could make it hassle-free”.
However, even those who share Mr Andrews’s view might regret making the decision to be “bumped off” if it turned out to be not so “hassle-free” as he supposes. But, pumped full of lethal poison, it would be too late for them to change their minds.
On the financial front, he adds that he accepts: “that my house should pay for my end-of-life care, but I would much rather my family got the money.” He does not say whether he has consulted his family about bumping himself off.
Mr Andrews’ s desire to die has an altruistic side to it. “The world is over-populated and I’m happy to make space for someone else,” he says. “What a solution for our times: reducing the population, recycling and helping slow climate change.”
The population control movement would certainly be thrilled to make a convert to their cult -- albeit one who will not be around much longer to worship at an altar dedicated to the god ZPG. Perhaps its acolytes will introduce celebratory “deathday” cards, along with “in sympathy” cards for new mothers.
Mr Andrews insists he has “no interest in dignity when I’m gone” and would like to be converted into “fertiliser pellets for farmers”. “I don’t believe in the sanctity of life,” he explains, “which denies our human right of an ending when we desire it.”
His dismissive attitude to life and the respectful treatment of the dead – a crucial indicator of how we value the living -- may explain his failure to acknowledge the potential for abuse, seen everywhere that “the right to die” has been implemented.
He wants to discard all legal and medical safeguards, it seems, and claims that the “fly in the ointment is Parliament”.
But that is precisely Parliament’s sacred trust in a democracy: protecting the vulnerable. An “assisted dying” law would apply not just to one individual but to everyone, impacting most severely on those less strong-minded than Mr Andrews – those who would like to be treated and cared for but lack the energy and/or courage to demand their rights because they fear that they will be a burden on others.
The right-to-die movement insists that only those who choose death will be eligible for this privilege. But that is incredibly unrealistic. Such a law would inevitably affect the weak, the old and the disabled. If we accept that death is the answer to everything – in effect, the answer to life – we could hardly deny this boon to those most in need.
We would wind up our suicide prevention programmes, since up until now it has been presumed that the natural human instinct is to live, not die, and suicide is regarded as a desperate act of the mentally unbalanced. If it is, however, a rational response to the stress of lawn-mowing, there’s not much point in funding costly programs to discourage it.
In fact, if assisted dying were to be legalised, suicide might eventually be regarded as evidence of sanity.
If Mr Andrews gets his way, how long will it be before people begin muttering that all the sensible people are killing themselves, while all the mentally unstable and foolish are being kept alive.
Warehousing those unproductive elderly and demented people at great expense to the taxpayer will be regarded as sheer madness.
There’s much more at stake in the debate over legalising assisted suicide than giving Mr Andrews the right to bump himself off because his lawn is overgrown. Trivializing death for him inevitably means trivializing human rights for the vulnerable.
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