Monday, June 29, 2009

National Secular Society accepts key argument against Euthanasia

Ht to Nick Baines for spotting this National Secular Society comment on spiritual care in hospital:

We have to be very careful about how we tread on this issue. If we say it is ok for doctors and nurses to provide spiritual care and pray for patients it can all too quickly get out of hand and we will have staff preaching on the wards. The risk is that it makes patients feel uncomfortable. They may feel compelled to say ‘yes’ thinking their care will suffer.

So there you have it. The NSS accepts that patients may feel pressurised to do something they don't want to do. Which is one of the key arguments against assisted suicide, being debated in the Lords this week. Strangely, the NSS are campaigning in favour of it. I continue to be amazed that an organisation with such a track record in flawed reasoning and misrepresentation is taken seriously by either the media or the government.

One comment on Nick's blog mentions a patient who apologised to her doctor for being a Christian, in case the doctor was offended. Who exactly is being made to feel uncomfortable for what here?


  1. This would be very clever, but unfortunately you neglected to quote a key sentence in what Terry Sanderson said, which was:

    "I think we should be very clear that patients should have to ask for this, not offered it."

    Isn't that exactly what supporters of voluntary euthanasia have always said?

    So I'm afraid your attempt to catch the NSS out has failed on this occasion.


  2. Dan - opponents of voluntary euthanasia have always said that it shouldn't even be an option. If it is an option, then that changes the way you think about what you ask for: ask any woman in labour. Actually, don't ask her when she's in labour, perhaps some other time!

    Scenario: I have a terminal illness, I'm in my local hospital which has already assisted the deaths of several people with the same condition that I've got. So even without it being explicitly offered, I know the option is there. The doctor tells me how bad it's going to get, and doesn't go a bundle on palliative care, I know where he's going with this. You don't have to state a point of view outright for people to know what you think (see the comments of the BMA chair of the ethics committee before the votes at their conference).

    I would feel both uncomfortable, and under pressure to make certain choices that medical staff wanted me to make. The idea that a patient has an unfettered free choice in these situations is a bit of a myth - in hospital patients are pretty much powerless, with no control over their surroundings or interactions with other people. That puts you on the back foot in any interactions with medical staff, whether about prayer or about death.

    I'm delighted that the BMA conference voted against the euthanasia motion that was put to them.