Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Pressure to Die

"Many people ask me, several times a week... if I ever contemplate (assisted suicide). It makes one feel like I should be contemplating it for the sake of the health service, for my family watching what I'm going through. I'm afraid that it will extend into the social conscience that people will almost expect assisted dying.... a (new) law will pressurise people."

story here.

If this is happening when assisted suicide is still illegal (though increasingly allowed through the legal system), then it will only get worse if it is legalised.

Even those who support euthanasia agree that it is a 'slippery slope', 12 years after legalising it, Belgium has now extended euthanasia to children. The Belgian experience has seen assisted dying extended to people who aren't terminally ill, and with the change in law has come a change in culture. Once you cross a line, it becomes very difficult to draw new ones that have the same moral force.


  1. I'm not generally convinced by "slippery slope" arguments but this is one instance where we can see the trajectory well in advance. Given that the current welfare "reforms" such as replacement of DLA are allegedly implicated in an (anecdotal) rise in suicide among the client group, goodness only knows what the pressures will be if this is allowed.

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  3. (Sorry, spelling correction!)
    I find the definitions when this is discussed too vague. I need to know more. What, as a matter of fact, is the difference between the decision that's taken every day by every doctor in every hospice to increase medication to a point where they know the patient dies rather than suffer unacceptable pain levels, and what goes on in Switzerland, except that in Switzerland the option is there to take the same decision earlier, and with more patient involvement?

    1. As a recently retired Hospital Chaplain I regret such ill-informed comment from a Bishop. Palliative and hospice care does not medicate into oblivion. Studies show that appropriate pain relief marginally prolongs life rather than shortening it.

  4. And the vagueness is part of the problem - the chap on the phone in is evidence of that. Already it's vague in our law whether assisted suicide is permitted, because nobody seems to get prosecuted for it even though it's illegal. Where does allowing to die become causing to die? As long as it remains vague, the boundary will move to wherever the legal system and the culture pushes it. The BBC has been pushing it for a while.

    To me this feels like the last hurrah of the Baby Boomers - in the 1960s and 70s they pushed for the freedom to have sex and get divorced, now in the dying of the light the push is for freedom and control over the very last thing in this life. It was interesting to see the platform and front row of the audience for the Terry Pratchett lecture on assisted suicide the BBC screened a while back - the Dimbleby brothers, Tony Robinson, Michael Parkinson, Pratchett himself, all men of a certain age.

    When Lord Falconer appointed a biased commission to do a report on assisted suicide, the BBC reported it as though it was an authoritative body, and it's hard to find a BBC programme on the subject that hasn't been one-sided in favour of liberalising the laws