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How France lost her dignity A civilisation that legalises euthanasia loses all respect

Physical suffering is pure hell. Credit: Valerie Winckler/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Physical suffering is pure hell. Credit: Valerie Winckler/Gamma-Rapho via Getty


April 24, 2021   5 mins

The French National Assembly is currently considering a proposed law “giving and guaranteeing the right to a free and chosen end of life”. The first article of the bill proposes a “rapid and painless death” with “medical assistance”. Since 2005, France has had a “let die” law that permits “deep and continuous sedation until death”. 

Proposition one: no one wants to die. As a rule, we prefer a diminished life to no life at all; because we think we will always have the little pleasures of life. And are there any pleasures other than little ones? That is a subject worth exploring.

Proposition two: no one wants to suffer. Suffer physically, that is. Moral suffering has its charms, it can even generate aesthetic material (as I have discovered for myself). Physical suffering is pure hell, devoid of interest and meaning, from which no lessons can be drawn. Life has been sketchily (and falsely) described as a quest for pleasure; it is, more accurately, an avoidance of suffering; and more or less everyone, given a choice between unbearable suffering and death, chooses death.

Proposition three, the most important of all: physical suffering can be eliminated. At the beginning of the 19th century, morphine was discovered. Many similar substances have appeared since then. At the end of the 19th century, hypnosis was rediscovered; it remains little used in France.

Ignorance of these facts might explain the alarming opinion polls which support euthanasia (96% in favour, if I remember correctly). Ninety six percent of people think that they are being asked the question: “Would you rather be helped to die or would you like to spend what remains of your days in appalling suffering”. The other 4% know all about morphine and hypnosis. Those proportions seem about right to me.

I’m going to resist launching into an argument for the decriminalisation of drugs here (and not just “soft” drugs); that is a subject on which I yield to the wisdom-filled observations of the excellent Patrick Eudeline.

Partisans of euthanasia like to gargle on words whose meanings they distort to such an extent that they should no longer even have the right to utter them. In the case of “compassion,” the lie is palpable. When it comes to “dignity”, things are more insidious. We have seriously deviated from the Kantian definition of dignity by substituting, little by little, the physical being for the moral one (and maybe even denying the very notion of a moral being), substituting the human capacity for action with a shallower more animal concept of good health — turned into a sort of pre-condition of all possibility of human dignity, even maybe its only true meaning.

Put in this way, I have rarely had the impression that I have manifested extraordinary dignity at any time in my life; and I do not have the impression that this is likely to improve. I am going to end up losing my hair and my teeth. My lungs will be reduced to shreds. I will become steadily more or less impotent, more or less incapable, perhaps incontinent and possibly even blind. Once a certain stage of degradation has been reached, I will inevitably end up telling myself (and I will be lucky if it is not someone else pointing it out to me) that I no longer have any dignity.

Well, so what? If that is dignity, one can very well do without it. On the other hand, everyone more or less needs to feel themselves necessary or loved; and, failing that, esteemed—even in my case admired. It is true that can also be lost; but one cannot do much about that; others play in this respect the determining role. And I can easily imagine myself asking to die in the hope that others reply: “Oh no, no. Please stay with us a little longer.” That would be very much my style. And I admit this without the slightest shame. The conclusion, I am afraid, is inescapable: I am a human-being utterly devoid of all dignity.

Part of the usual sales pitch for euthanasia consists in maintaining that France is “lagging behind” other countries. The preamble for the bill that will shortly be proposed is in this respect comical: looking for countries that France is allegedly “lagging behind,” they can only find Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg; frankly, I am not impressed.

The rest of the preamble consists of stitching together citations from Anne Bert, presented as “admirably forceful”, but which have the unfortunate effect of raising my suspicions. For example, when she maintains: “No, euthanasia does not fall under the heading of eugenics.” On the contrary, it is obvious that the partisans of both the ideas are exactly the same people, from the “divine” Plato to the Nazis. Likewise, when she adds, “No, the Belgian law on euthanasia has not encouraged inheritance theft.” I admit that I had not thought of this, but now that she mentions it…

Immediately afterwards, she lets the cat right out of the bag by claiming that euthanasia “is not a solution of an economic nature”. There are, however, indeed certain sordid arguments that one only hears from “economists,” insofar as that term has any meaning. None other than Jacques Attali has insisted, in an already dated work, on the cost to the public purse of maintaining the lives of very old people; it is hardly surprising that Alain Minc, more recently, has gone in the same direction, Attali just being a stupider version of Minc (without even speaking of that clown François de Closets, who is something like the performing monkey of the other two, their Hanswurst).

Catholics will do their best to resist, but, sad to say, we have more or less got used to the idea that the Catholics always lose. Muslims and Jews, on this subject as on other subjects deemed “societal” (that ugly word), think exactly the same as Catholics; the media are generally in strong agreement about hiding this fact. I do not have a lot of illusions; these faiths will end up by giving way and submitting to the yoke of “republican law”. Their priests, rabbis, or imams will in future visit euthanasia candidates to tell them that yes, it is an ugly business, but tomorrow will be better, and that even if people have abandoned them, God will take care of them. Let us be honest about that.

From the point of view of the Lamas, the situation is without doubt even worse. Any attentive reader of the Bardo Thodol knows that death throes are a particularly significant moment in a man’s life, for they offer him a final chance, even in the case of unfavourable karma, to free himself from samsara, the cycle of rebirth. Any early interruption of death-agonies is thus a frankly criminal act; unfortunately, Buddhists rarely intervene in public debate.

There remain only the doctors, in whom I had placed little hope, doubtless because I am not very familiar with them; but it is undeniable that some of them resist and refuse to kill their patients and that they will remain perhaps the last barrier to euthanasia. I do not know where they get this courage; maybe it is only respect for the Hippocratic oath: “Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course”. It is possible. The public uttering of this oath must have been a significant moment in their lives. In any case their struggle is an admirable one, even if it is a struggle “for honour”.

The honour of a civilisation is not exactly nothing. But really something else is at stake; from the anthropological point of view. It is a question of life and death. And on this point I am going to have to be very explicit: when a country — a society, a civilisation — gets to the point of legalising euthanasia, it loses in my eyes all right to respect. It becomes henceforth not only legitimate, but desirable, to destroy it; so that something else — another country, another society, another civilisation — might have a chance to arise.

This essay appeared in Le Figaro on 5 April 2021. Translated for UnHerd by Dr Louis Betty


Michel Houellebecq is a French author of novels, poems and essays. His latest book is Serotonin. 


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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago

I read this and remained unpersuaded. Morphine? How well can you function with morphine? Hypnosis? Not everyone is susceptible – I have tried many times. Modern medicine keeps people alive for longer, but when quality of life has gone what exactly is the point of suffering for years when one is going to die anyway? Why are people so afraid of being dead? This is coming to every one of us. Assisted euthanasia is the pinnacle of civilisation in my opinion. If clinging to life is your choice, you have your choice. I want mine.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Well said.
The fact that so many people think they have the right to force other people to continue to suffer against their will is appalling.
Fortunately, societies round the world are at last coming round to accept an individuals right to a dignified exit.
Those that stand in their way are genuinely well meaning, but sadly misguided.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

my concern is that this right will degenerate into an obligation.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

No be fully assured if you wish to linger on , after a stroke say, paralysed, unable to speak and double incontinent ,or in great pain with incurable cancer the state is happy to oblige-just go around any hospital ward to allay your fears that the health profession is speeding up people’s ‘natural’ end. Personally, speaking as someone who did the RGN course I think my family will just have to miss those last ‘special moments’ if I get like that.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Killing someone isn’t “speeding” anything up.

It’s a deliberate act of killing.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Being bumped off is inherently undignified.

John Alexander
John Alexander
3 years ago

Agree fully with you.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
3 years ago

I agree with you: I also agree with the essay … Pure Ambivalence. My gut hunch is to side with the big picture – the essay.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

It was a terrible article, aimless and the arguments were all just named by giving the name of other French Writers and expecting us to know what they had written. But what really bothered me was the Liberal cutting short of the Hippocratic oath:

“Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. (this left out) Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion.”

Because a Liberal can barely think the word pregnancy without want to abo* t it, seemingly, from watching ‘Pro Choice’ rallies, and Doctors being Liberals incarnate, have no issue with the second half – so tell them the first half is Liberal/Lefty Secular-Humanism as well and they will kill anyone, like they do with abo* tion. (but killing babies seems different to me, wrong, from killing an end of life old person, but Liberal morality says the oppisite.)

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
3 years ago

Everyone has the right to choose not to take the medication that is keeping them alive.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  Josie Bowen

And not all people wishing to die are taking medication. And stopping medication will not necessarily cause one to die quickly, rather suffer more.

Last edited 3 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

Pain control good, euthanasia bad.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Josie Bowen

But that in itself does not guarantee a quick and painless death.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Josie Bowen

Of course. Free will. It applies to death aswell.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

Obviously it doesn’t.

No one freely chooses either suffering or death.

Jorge Espinha
Jorge Espinha
3 years ago
Reply to  Josie Bowen

that’s not euthanasia.

Ralph Hanke
Ralph Hanke
3 years ago

“Why are people so afraid of being dead”
Recently I have been thinking: I am not so much afraid of being dead, but rather afraid of not being alive. Semantics perhaps, although I don’t think so. I would just hate to miss something really cool by not being alive.

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago

When the visitors from far distant galaxies arrive to sift through the charred remains of this world and they patiently reassemble the fragments in order to gain a better understanding of what sort of place it was and what kind of people we were, one is pretty sure that they will wet themselves laughing at the fact that we could allow people to experience the pain, misery and desperation of suffering which accompanies terminal illnesses and is current lot of so many; and that we did so because we afforded an opposition platform to a motley collection of churchmen, philosophers and handwringers. 

ellwood
ellwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

I love the phrase “handwringers “.

Dawn McD
Dawn McD
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

I wish I could give 100 likes to this comment.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

It is only the “motley collection” you despise, who can save you from being bumped off by medics or hospital administrators.

Though compulsory euthanasia is already happening at scale, though discreetly.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

There is a case for letting nature take its course, instead of keeping people alive at all costs.

But that’s a very different thing from killing people – which is what euthanasia involves.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago

I’m floored by how confident Monsieur Houellebecq is in his opinion on other peoples suffering.

A life lived on morphine is not much of a life, opiates are a blunt instrument (this has been acknowledged for decades) and far from a good solution to long term constant physical pain and should only be used short term in recovery or at the palliative care stage.

As for religion, telling people they should keep suffering as it brings them closer to god is frankly vile. Mother Theresa is fine example of that particular cruelty.

The suggestion that someone else has the right to tell you what you may or may not do with your own body, particularly that someone else can decide that you must continue to suffer because they don’t like the implications for themselves is morally revolting.

There is no blanket solution that is correct for all people and I see no reason why not, on a case by case basis, carefully, this shouldn’t be an option for people.

Last edited 3 years ago by Stuart Bennett
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

The question is not whether ‘someone else can decide that you must continue to suffer’. If you want to kill yourself it is generally impossible to stop you. The question is whether suicide should be approved of, promoted, facilitated, whether those who feel like killing themselves should be encouraged to feel good about their choice.. Society spends a lot of energy ‘nudging’ people away from smoking; why should we start nudging people *towards* suicide?

As for the ‘carefully, case by case’ bit, that is a smokescreen. It is not going to happen in reality. Once suicide is seen as a good thing for society to support, that will have effect across the board. There are plenty of people who might want to encourage suicide – the ideologically committed, economists, hospital directors, people worn down by having to take care of a difficult person – and once society approves of suicide they can, and will, do their best to promote it. Only a few Mary Whitehouse characters will try to push the other way.

Abortion law shows the difference between theory and reality. In theory (and in law) abortion in the UK is limited to cases where the mother’s physical or mental health is at risk, and two doctors must certify that this is so. In practice no one ever gets a ‘no’ (as long as they are within the term limits). Those certificates are sometimes pre-signed by doctors who never see, let alone evaluate, their patient and no one does anything about it. Abortion is free on demand, whatever the law says. You may think that this is as it should be – for abortion – but there is no point pretending that assisted suicide would be treated any differently.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Another response that assumes that “people who wish to end their lives can make that happen”.
Can you imagine trying that when you’re in a near vegetative state ?
Most people who resist AS appear to lack the imagination – or empathy – to acknowledge these common scenarios.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

There are people who end up suffering a lot, yes, and who are unable to commit suicide. That is a tragedy. There will be other people who could have had good and important times in their lives, but who manage to kill themselves before that can happen. That is also a tragedy. It is not for me to judge individual choices, but I’d say that a strong social pressure in favour of keeping people alive will deliver clearly better outcomes overall.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“a strong social pressure in favour of keeping people alive” I think keeping people alive should be done in other ways than disallowing suicide! –
If you want people to live, make life worthwhile! Make sure everyone can achieve financial independence, a stable income, have a place to live, and all the other things that make life wonderful.
Simply making it hard to die is a different matter altogether and a very cheap way out – simply to feel good. without actually giving another person that is suffering dignity or assistance!
It does little to mitigate the reasons people feel like life is unlivable. It punishes the individual twice over. Leaving them without the assistance to make a good life and then disallowing them the right to end their life by the very same people that ignored them in the first place.

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

If you want society to invest lots of energy in helping the suffering and making everyone’s life worthwhile, assisted suicide is going to hurt you, not help you. Now we are looking at people suffering, and telling ourselves that this is terrible and we ought to do something – and we are none too good at actually doing it. With assisted suicide, we would say, to ourselves and the people involved: “It does not have to be like this. There is an approved solution. Why insist on keeping on living, when we have made it so easy to kill yourself?”.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I disagree, assisted suicide rate is not going to increase if it is backed up with other measures to ensure all people get what they need to make their life worthwhile! You would see a drop off of suicide, because people would be achieving their potential, and living more happily while achieving their goals!
Simply deciding that people should not be given the resources either way! focusing on suicide without looking at the wider causes is really the problem.
If you want to insist on life, then also insist on quality of life for all people! and make sure all people have what they need and are achieving the life they hoped for! Until that is done people will continue to kill themselves in terrible ways, all the while condemned and denied dignity in life and death – by the so called compassionate, who feed on their own self important virtue.
Demanding people to live is not a virtue! Only assisting people to live well and die well is. As it requires service to others and sacrifice of time and money – over ignoring the problem and doing nothing to alleviate suffering!

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

I doubt your plan will work, but it is worth a try. Let us do it in the right order: First we do all the work of helping suffering and making everyone’s life worth while. Once that is done, we will hopefully see that there is no longer much demand for assisted suicide, and the problem is solved. If we start by making suicide easier we will never get to phase two.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No, I think people have the choice to choose which order is important for them, regardless of your criteria and wishes! And its a false idea only one thing can be tried first – both can be implemented the same time – just as they are in switzerland. (patients there have professionals asses their mental capacity and mental health, and also asses possible outside factors leading to an end of life decision)
Your doubts are not of concern to those that wish to die!
They are in no way obligated to you and your concerns.
But you are obligated to make life better for others – that is your obligation as a christian. Rather then not denying people death but helping them live in happiness by providing support, in that you will save lives and make society more compassionate for those that are suffering.
A person should have the right to choose You cannot choose for them, and nor should you be able to limit another person’s choices and resources in either finding help to die or people to assist them! That is not freedom or dignity!
Assisting people to live well or die well is the only moral line to take. You as a person can choose how to assist, but realise life is not what some people want. The choice is theirs not yours!

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Phil Mack
Phil Mack
1 year ago

Putting in loads of exclamation marks does not bolster your “argument”.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

To die well. is to live out one’s natural span.

Committing suicide is dying tragically and badly.

Euphemisms like “assisted dying” and “euthanasia” are lies designed to conceal this.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
3 years ago

I think you know little about suicidal despair of you think money can prevent or cure it.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

What are you doing to help people live the good life ?

Other than emptily spouting politics.

What are you doing to give the dying dignity or assistance ?

Other than suggesting that they should often be killed.

C S
C S
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“It is not for me to judge individual choices”

And yet here you are. Again.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

EDITED as it was a cruel and insensitive post, sorry.

Last edited 3 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Thanks

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I think that ending life support by switching off a machine or desisting from tube feeding is a very long way from administering a lethal dose of a drug. If a person is in a vegetative state I think by definition they are not suffering.

ellwood
ellwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

You think ??? You know ??? How do you know ???

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  ellwood

How do you know the opposite ?

Flicking off a life-support machine involves starving the “vegetative” person to death.

And at some deep level is bound to cause suffering.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

There’s zero evidence suggesting that people in a “vegetative” state want to die.

It’s others, such as yourself, who want them to.

btw people are never “vegetables.”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Abo* tion also prohibited by the Hippocratic oath but no one cares.
The sickness of Liberalism, kill any unborn baby, gov will even pay for it, but henious killers may not be executed? Kill Granny as she is suffering and her money is going to waste, but release the killers and ab* rt the babies???>?

Liberalism = sick death cult, and hates the victim but loves the criminal.

Ceres Lee-Ffoulkes
Ceres Lee-Ffoulkes
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

@ Sanford Artzen – Why do you avoid writing the word ‘abortion’? Interested.

michael harris
michael harris
3 years ago

Perhaps he thinks the mods will censure it?

M L
M L
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

 opiates are a blunt instrument
Nah dawg you got them twisted

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

It isn’t your body – it’s on loan from God.

The greatest cruelty is leading people to imagine they won’t be judged by God.

We all will of course – and it’s in our own interests to face that fact, and be reconciled – negotiate a peace deal ! – with the Almighty.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago

We are the first generation that really has mass old age. Parents in their nineties being looked after by seventy year olds. Fifty years ago a ‘telegram’ from the Queen was a rare event. Now it’s mass mailing.
The result is that we have much more of an idea and experience of what it is like to be old, really old. We also have medicines and aids to keep old people alive even as the body and mind slowly decay beyond the natural capabilities of the body alone. Naturally many many people want to squeeze every possible minute out of the gift that is life.
However, the reality of aging is more than just living. Some time, roughly in the mid-80s, mobility starts to diminish. The world slowly closes in, becoming housebound little-by-little. Mental faculties start to decline. From being an opinion leader in command of your world, increasingly the world looks on you as an elderly child unable to make your own decisions. Physical capabilities diminish – the body leaks and aches and seizes up. Your own house becomes too much. Doing things for yourself gets harder and harder. In the 90s you might need someone to dress you, to lift you out of bed, to deal with your bodily fluids, to move you from room to room.
Most people will KBO, taking joy in seeing family growing up and blossoming, happy in memories and thoughts, berating the world for how it has changed, or celebrating it for what it has become. But for some old age brings pain, and horror, and disgust, and loss, and incapacity to be who you truly feel you are. There will always be an end. For some, having the choice of when to make that end – to close the door on a torture chamber – is something each individual should be able to decide.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

But do you not have that choice already? In the US you could buy a legal handgun and shoot yourself if you want to be dead. Even in Europe, could you not find a way, if that is what you want?

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Yes of course but I believe the push from euthanasia comes from people who fear they will be unable to take their lives when the time comes – usually because of degenerative diseases. This is not a push towards suicide but an enabling of people who want to have as much life as possible despite their illness but then being assured they will not suffer an agonising death. It protects the family also who may otherwise be reluctant to perform an assisted suicide. Huge issues here I know and it is not black and white and I’m glad that articles like the above are written because it encourages debate.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Hmmm. An alternative explanation would but that this is not mainly about avoiding suffering, but about affirmation and feeling in control. Death is scary, but like anything else it is easier to face if you can feel that you control your own destiny. And it feels better to go at a party you organise with your loved ones backing you and a man in a white coat to show society’s approval, than to pull the trigger alone and leave a bloody mess. If it was just a matter of avoiding suffering this would not matter so much. Now, making people’s passing easier is an important goal in itself. But it is worth asking how many additional suicides – and there will be many, whatever you claim is the purpose of this change – it is worth to make some people feel better about having to die.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I agree with some of what you say and for those who can organise that sort of farewell then go for it. But it is not always as straight forward as that and some people can deteriorate very quickly. If euthanasia is legalised it will need very very strict conditions. This has absolutely nothing to do with society’s endorsement. Individual’s right to have as peaceful a death as possible when they are in a position not to do it themselves. Years and years ago sympathetic doctors would have been able to do that.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

“Years and years ago” doctors did exactly that, but ran/run the risk of imprisonment for doing so.
Thankfully they are close enough to the individual situation to support a compassionate outcome.
Thanks to years of lobbying, the BMA have finally reversed their long held official position of opposition to Assisted Dying.
I am personally very proud of my small contribution to this outcome.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I shall make a point of never accepting treatment or medical advice from any doctor called Ian Barton.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I wish you a long and healthy life – and sincerely hope you die unexpectedly in your sleep (at a ripe old age) 🙂
My only medical advice would be “Don’t get ill beforehand”

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I’ll take my chances. And if I or my wife should decide that we cannot take the pain any more, I hope I shall choose to do the right thing and take the consequences – whatever the law says. But if I ask a doctor for advice I want to be sure that he is trying to make me better, not to find the best way of getting me killed.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You are always able to have as many medical opinions as you wish to be sure you are getting the best advice.
do the right thing” I doubt suicide is based on right and wrong. But simply what is able to be tolerated and endured over what is pointless to continue – This is deeply personal to each person, but must remain a choice that can be made.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

If you’re stuck in a hospital bed, you’re entirely at the mercy of the ward doctors and nurses.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

We all wish it. Sadly that is not what life is.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

V

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire Olszanska
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Once the principle of assisted suicide as a right you can demand is accepted, no strict conditions will hold for long. Euthanasia-with-conditions may be a nice idea in principle, but you are kidding yourself if you think it can work.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I agree it can be misused as can anything in this life but that is not a reason to not discuss the issue and how it could be made safe. I’m not kidding myself about anything. My grandmother lasted 4 weeks after having water and food drips removed. That’s a horror story.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

That is indeed horrible. I am sorry for you and our gran, both.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Thank you. Every human being is different and their birth, life, death will be different for everyone, which is why it has to be individual, without consequences for the people who made their end peaceful.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

I disagree about the consequences. I do not know what i would do, if my wife was dying and in pain. I might decide it would be right to help her die if she asks, and do it, or that it would be wrong, and refuse. I shall certainly make no promises ahead of time. But if I decided that the situation justified me helping to kill my wife, it would be rather inconsistent (and contemptible) of me to refuse to do it just because it happened to be illegal. To be honest I doubt I would actually end up in prison if she reallly was dying and in pain. But if I am not prepared to take that risk, I really do not think I should be doing the deed in the first place.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But I dont think such a thing should be illegal,
even searching the internet with “husband charged for assisted suicide”
Makes for very sad reading – loving partners put into an impossible situations – and possibly in jail – for something that should be peaceful, supported and talked though in dignity – Where a husband can let go of his wife in the knowledge she wont suffer, And not be in a position of being charged and then have to defend himself in court
That is not justice or dignity to either of those poor people, It is failing to support a man who has done nothing wrong, leaving him with few resources, and alone in struggling with terminal illness of a loved partner…
All at a time he needs the most support – he is then classed as a criminal…

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago

As long as the individual is the one choosing and not the doctor, the family members, society, etc.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It’s definitely worth asking those questions in order to establish an AS framework that minimises the number of unnecessary deaths.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I wonder how you would define a ‘necessary death’. Do you want to rephrase that?

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

If people want to feel better about dying, that is also an act of compassion! People should be allowed to control how they die! Avoiding suffering, being in control, being able to organise, say goodbye – These are simple acts that give dignity to a person, who is already under enormous pressure.
I see no reason at all to deny a person that! I call that Humane.
If there are many suicides, something else needs to be tackled! – Suicide is the result of other factors that must be addressed in society!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Many people who want to end their lives make a hash of it and end up badly affected, even maimed. Civilised societies need to assist those suffering.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

I agree, 2nd ammendment for all, and also some basic instruction on best ways, sort of end ol life ‘How-To videos’. Greatly lessen the making of a hash of it.

The problem of letting someone kill themselves is they may not have yet asked forgiveness of wrongs they committed. That is why religions are against it, the dieing may have confession, or forgiveness in their hearts, or remorse, and killing them before means it was not realized.

Karma, the ‘Great Wheel’ we may have issues needing resolving, and early death will stop that.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

By relieving the suffering, not by killing people.

Richard Lord
Richard Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It’s true that anyone can kill themselves if they want to, if they have the courage and determination. They could jump in front of a train or bus, drive their car into a tree, jump from height, etc.

None of these are dignified or without pain. They also require some poor soul to clear up the mess. Let’s for one moment consider the relatives or emergency services left with this grim task.

Having seen long, painful and undignified deaths I find it difficult to conclude that we are currently a civilised society.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

Well, if ‘anyone can kill themselves if they want to’ anyone can avoid unbearable pain. That makes it a question of making suicide more dignified, painless, which also means: more attractive. There is no reason to make people’s suffering worse than it has to be. But I’d point out that society has gone to great lengths over the last few generations to make suicide harder. Poisons are harder to get hold of, dangerous medicines are sold with emetics added, you can no longer kill yourself with the gas in an oven. If we make suicide easier, more people will kill themselves. Is that really something we want to encourage?

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I really think you’ve missed the point of euthanasia/assisted suicide. This is not about suicide in general or encouraging suicide.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Well, ‘assisted suicide’ will encourage a lot of people to kill themselves who would not otherwise have killed themselves. The fact that you call it by a different name and only make it available for some groups does not change that basic fact. Also, it will establish the principle that suicide is a good and accceptable thing, that people should be allowed to do if they so feel like. Anyway, judging from e.g. Holland, the kinds of people who are eligible for euthanasia will expand steadily over time.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Sorry to be a pedant, but people who choose assisted suicide are not killing themselves – and as Claire points out – euthanasia is not remotely the same as AS.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Euthanasia is probably not the right word – it was Claire who brought it in but I should not have taken it up. The essence of the matter is this: You decide you want to be dead, and you take an action that results in your shortly becoming dead. Whether you do it by pulling a trigger or travel to an appropriate clinic in Switzerland is not a distinction worth arguing over.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well the terms are being muddled to be fair but AS is distinct from euthanasia but there are overlaps. Removing life giving enablers such as drugs water etc is in fact actively killing people anyway. Took my gran nearly 4 weeks to die after these thi gs were removed. She had a strong heart which helped her live to a grand age but did not enable a grand death!

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“You decide you want to be dead, and you take Whether by pulling a trigger or travel to an appropriate clinic in Switzerland is not a distinction worth arguing over.”
Sorry that’s untrue – death by the hands of a professional will ALWAYS be better that a self attempt.! The distinction is very much worth arguing over!
The right to die with the least amount of suffering possible! The chance to have professionals help, from mental health evaluations to sorting out all your papers and ensure you have no regrets, check if there are other influences making suicide an option, and also the chance to ease remaining families concerns – that helps their healing. Letting someone go is hard, but doing it in a dignified way that allows for goodbyes and the chance to say all that needs to be said is far better.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Euthanasia = assisted suicide = killing oneself (with help !).

C S
C S
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

So thick! And still able to type? Amazing.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  C S

Stop talking about yourself.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

It should be fiscally encouraged by tax relief on such pernicious things as death duties. Then we might be able encourage those geriatrics such as myself to push off quietly, and stop squealing for more.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago

Oh please don’t. I’ve really started to appreciate your contributions. Your knowledge of Latin and history. Keep us on our toes.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

No cause for alarm! I have to outlive my Springer Spaniels, and they have a few years left in them.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

I know that feeling. There was a time I measured my future in terms of the number of dogs I might share my life with. Now I see it as a challenge to outlive the latest.

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago

I know it’s not what it’s about, but it’s what will inevitably happen…

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

Assisted suicide = suicide.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Yes, undoubtedly and preferably on a Herculean scale.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“Death more attractive”… And so what if it is?
If life holds so little attractiveness people should be allowed to die! The fact that it becomes easier to do is a wonderful for those that have no wish to be alive.
Feel free to make life attractive for others! but don’t deny them choice of life or death!

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

Suicide is murdering oneself, possibly with medical assistance.

Murder is never good.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

“anyone can kill themselves if they want to” Yes… but without access to good info on how to do that – as it is mostly blocked on the internet – Most people make a hash of it. Some would have been better of either being diagnosed for depression, and some for having the right to end their life with the help of a professional!
Because it’s all left to chance as there are no formal routes to suicide- people die horribly, or don’t succeed, while others are simply forced to exist due to their fear of trying…
Many of those could have been helped if suicide wasn’t a taboo subject, but instead suffer in silence in non lives neither living or dead. Simply existing.
By removing the stigma – more people could be heard and helped.

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Wile healthy score some fentanyl and stash it if you wish. I personally have my stash of something if ever I needed it. Life is a weird trip, and one day we have to go home.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

That is one way to do it – and it does not require official approval of suicide.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

At God’s time of choosing, not our own.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“You could buy a legal handgun and shoot yourself “… and you could also botch that up and be left paralized or in a worse state. Plus its not very dignified, better to have a professional there to make sure it’s done right and without suffering.

Wil Harper
Wil Harper
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You show an alarming lack of knowledge of the reality of life for many terminally ill patients, the terror of helplessness, of being trapped in a foaling body, Full of pain, unable to move or in some cases speak much. How do you suggest a frail 85yr old who is in a supervised medical facility geta access to a handgun? Or is even able to use it? And why should they? Shooting oneself is an incredibly hard thing to do and runs a real risk of not achieving its end objective.
You seem to be under the misapprehension that people who would consider assisted suicide are still capable of action themselves. They usually are not, that’s precisely why they need assistance. It is the cases when an individual is unable to take the action to end their own life and needs help that are under debate here.

ameliamulder
ameliamulder
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

This makes me so mad I should probably not even be responding to you. When my mother was bed bound and writhing with pain, begging me and the nurses over and over to please kill her, do you think that she was in a position to somehow get up out of bed to get a gun to shoot herself or a knife to slit her wrists? When the morphine did not even touch her deep bone pain from bones that looked like Swiss cheese (as described by her doctor after viewing her X-rays)? You base your position on scenarios that assume you would still have the ability to do things for yourself. Well, my mother was reliant on nurses to bathe her, change her nappies, feed and medicate her. There was no way they would have allowed her to harm herself as they could have got into big trouble for that. And they did not leave her alone for even a moment (she received home based care). Her situation escalated very quickly. At the end of November 2020 she was still driving herself around. By January she was unable to walk anymore. By the end of February she was dead. But only after experiencing the most horrid, excruciating pain that we should not allow anyone to endure. Palliative care was not enough. She wanted out (and anyone would have wanted out under those circumstances, trust me – yourself included!) and I should have been able to help her with that. But I wasn’t.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  ameliamulder

Morphine is the only method of pain control ?

C S
C S
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Life is NOT a gift! Get rid of that idea straight away!

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago
Reply to  C S

What is it then ?

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

“We are the first generation that really has mass old age. Parents in their nineties being looked after by seventy year olds.”
This will also be the last generation that has seventy-year-olds looking after ninety-something parents. That’s a historical quirk based on the fact that the war generation married young and had children in their twenties, before benefiting from rising life expectancy thereafter. The baby boomers began to delay reproduction, and their children have done so to an even greater degree. So the next generation of ninety-year-olds will be looked after by sixty-year-olds; the one after will be looked after by fifty-year-olds.

Last edited 3 years ago by Basil Chamberlain
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

By the stage the fifty-year-olds are looking after the ninety-year-olds the world’s population will be between 15 to 20 billion.
Even “bloody old England, of telegraph poles and tin” will be about 100 million.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

All assuming Nature won’t make an intervention.

mike mckenzie
mike mckenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

I reluctantly agree with much of Saul D’s post. At age 85 I have recently found my mobility diminishing, and “leaks” and aches increasing. Not looking forward to inevitable further declines but hope that I can retain some control of my mental processes until this corpse finally gives out, when sympathetic doctors will allow the necessary and not too painful termination.
Have always found M Houellebecq’s writing and opinions both challenging and demanding attention.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago

I had to watch my own father drown for 4 days in his own mucus while the medical community seemingly did everything in their power to prolong his misery at great expense, with money that could have gone to healing the healable, I am firmly on the side of people being able to end their own suffering and free up resources for those who most need it.

Last edited 3 years ago by hayden eastwood
Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago

I’m sorry about your father, that sounds horrific. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but was the answer perhaps not assisted suicide, but to no longer prolong his misery at great expense (stop all treatment apart from anything necessary to make him as comfortable as possible)? It’s an important part of this debate which I think is missing… Why do we too often fight so hard to prolong life when in hindsight it might not have been the best path to take? How do we (doctors, families and patients primarily) decide when this is right? Again, I’m sorry about your father.

Gareth Rees
Gareth Rees
3 years ago
Reply to  Susie E

Define “as comfortable as possible”. Some pain cannot be controlled, and most terminally ill patients experience the incredibly unpleasant feeling of hypoxia even when blood oxygen levels are fully saturated.A bit like being constantly waterboarded. I am grateful that my father’s medics listened to what he wanted (he was 90 and had had a serious stroke from which he would not be able to recover) and provided him with sufficient midazolam and morphine to ensure a quick and peaceful departure from this world. Technically he needed neither and many medics won’t do this for their patients because of the risk of being sued or struck off.

Last edited 3 years ago by Gareth Rees
Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Susie E

You are talking, I think about the Liverpool pathway which stops all medication other than palliative and allows the patient to starve to death.
I am sorry, but I do not see that as a compassionate alternative.
I am afraid it is a fallacy to think that pain can always be controlled. It can’t.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

This is normal, in the care home of last resort I worked in once a person stopped wanting food and drink we did not ‘Force it” and they died in 2 days. When they are at the time to die they lose thirst, and you stop ‘forcing’ water (holding it to their lips and say, ‘drink’ )and it ends. When dieing of lung falilng and they fight for breath in desperate misery, morphine is medically administered ‘To relieve the pain of the agonizing breathing effort’ and they die in hours as the reduced pain means they do not fight it.

This is just standard end of life care. I have done it myself to my father who died in my house after the long time we cared for him, we had morphine ‘to relieve the pain of gasping, but everyone knows it is to ‘put them to sleep’ when the agony exceeds the tolerance and is merely misery, you give them a does. I did it in the care home decades ago.

The difference is these actions are not positive actions, you just do not force water, you give pain meds to stop the gasping breathing pain – it kills them, but falls under a different kind of action.

Euthanasia is proactively killing.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

2 days? My grandmother took nearly three/four weeks. Strong heart. It can be a curse.

Carol Scott
Carol Scott
3 years ago

My mother also took weeks to die, it was terrible.

Wil Harper
Wil Harper
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

So many people seem to think that stopping forcing water and food is a ‘gentle’ alternative. I simply cannot see the difference here, if you know that someone wishes to die, how is it better to withdraw food and water so they starve to death, slowly, over several days of not weeks, than to offer them a planned, supervised calm death.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago

“allows the patient to starve to death.”
That can take so long, For my grandmother they cut her water and gave her morphine for the pain – but even then it took 3 days. The alternative was to choke to death on cancerous nodules in her throat making it impossible to eat and more difficult to breath. After 12 years of spine crumbling cancer – she still had to wait 3 days…
All so other people could feel good about their morals.
I was thankful at least we all could say goodby, with photos, much laughing and crying, together for a few hrs before the morphine kicked in to make her sleepy. At least she had some small measure of dignity bestowed to her in that! The chance to say goodby well and in the company of family.
I hope I have the same luck when I get old. To choose my time, and have all I need to slip away peacefully. That should be a right for every human.

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Susie E

I think the trouble is that the line between not prolonging suffering and assisting suicide is blurry. My experience with doctors was that they were unable to make an intelligent distinction when it mattered and instead erred on the side of caution, which is to say they made his dying moments a misery I can’t bear to contemplate, to avoid the nanoprobability they might get into some bureaucratic difficulties. There needs to be a debate at the very least about the current modus operandi.

Konstantinos Stavropoulos
Konstantinos Stavropoulos
3 years ago

Well put. But what you are talking about is not euthanasia. I saw my father at 92 -very wrongly to my view- being put into mechanical life support; I strongly felt at the time an urge to “pull the plagues”. That thought (it was and still is very clear to me) is not at all contradictory to my very strong opposition to euthanasia. Two very different issues about one persons ending. Unfortunately these issues are not discussed clearly, either separately or combined. Regrettably, the medical market also seems to avoid facing this profitable confusion.

Last edited 2 years ago by Konstantinos Stavropoulos
hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago

I don’t think my father’s case was one of euthanasia at all, though the doctors seemed to think it was even though he had no hope of recovering and had been given weeks to live by the same doctors. Euthanasia of perfectly healthy people is a very different proposition. What is it that you oppose exactly and and under what circumstances?

Konstantinos Stavropoulos
Konstantinos Stavropoulos
2 years ago

Sorry for the super-late reply. I hope you see mine. I think Unherd should add some features, like a flag for a reply to one’s comment that is visible when first opening the app.

I don’t oppose to what you said. I clearly oppose to euthanasia as a way to add one’s life. A person has the “rights” to end his/her life, but not the life of another. This is “understandable” in an extreme situation, but to make this legal would make us brutal and primitive.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago

Profitable long-term illness.
Yes I think that decision should be discussed with a dr outside of the hospital, as a moderator to ensure the best decision is being made for the patient and not the hospital.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
3 years ago

Once again, Monsieur Houellebecq, you’ve provoked me into reevaluating my opinions and revisiting, in more depth, a subject on which I have found myself torn. That in itself is rare achievement in these our days.
It’s frightening how an issue so complex can be repackaged and touted to the populace as a simplicity, a “no brainer”. As you have adroitly demonstrated, euthanasia is anything but that.
It interests (but no longer surprises) me that the great leveling frenzy which so possesses our western societies does not extend its “compassion” to the old, the fell, the lame and the terminally ill. They, it seems, are not worthy of preservation by our new, self appointed “popular guardians”.
Perhaps they’re too real, immediate, recognizable, too much a reminder of our common fate, weakness and yes, our true obligations to one another. They certainly don’t fit into any current “intersectional hierarchy”, or lend themselves to self righteous tubthumping. In this, they are fated to be neglected, being no reliable fodder for headlines or popular outrage. One never riots close to home, it seems.
Merci, et allez bien.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

A sensitive and thoughtful response to the article. It is indeed a complicated issue, certainly not the “no brainer” (ghastly expression!) in favour of euthanasia that, as you say, is touted almost universally now.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

In British Columbia, a hospice is being closed because they are not ‘open’ to MAID, medical assistance in death. Guess who closed it? The government.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

With respect, you have made an eloquent argument against something which is not actually being proposed.
Assisted suicide, which is what legislators in many countries are addressing, is a matter of self-determination – “I choose”.
Arguments against AS invariably use the term ‘euthanasia’ which is defined as ending another being’s suffering so the inevitable takeaway is that we’ll have a society were some will decide on the fate of others. A doctor or a close relative will decide that Gran has suffered enough and the proper arrangements will be made.
I have never heard of anyone who is proposing that is the best way forward for society or even that it is an inevitable next step. Anyone that ever has done so and actually gave it a try has long since been burning on the same pile with all the other monsters.
Of course such legislation needs to define the legal boundaries and conditions to protect all concerned but when it’s all said and done.
Doctors will assist me by confirming the medical prognosis is hopeless.
I will decide what I consider to be conditions under which I wish to carry on – or not. I will make that decision based on factors of my choosing. Assisted Suicide legislation will also allow me to make my decisions known in advance in the event that I become incapacitated and incommunicative.
If I choose the option of AS the assistance I will be asking for is medical. I need a person to perform a medical service or provide the means so that I may perform the service myself – at a time and place of my choosing.
Euthanasia on the other hand places the onerous moral burden on individuals in particular and society in general. Who dies? and When? Who lives? Anyone who has had a favourite pet put down knows what wrestling with a “difficult but necessary” choice is all about. Even when we’re assured by vets that “it was for the best” the feeling that we’ve done a terrible thing still manages to linger. How the burden would have been lifted had the animal been granted the gift of speech just long enough to say “Please do this one last thing for me, it’s my time”

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago

How dare he, or any of you, decide for me what is best.
Morphine does not kill pain, not until the dose is so huge it kills you. Hypnosis? That only works for some people, and even then can not totally eliminate pain.
I watched my mother in excruciating pain from cancer, until the morphine eventually killed her, and my father screaming in pain with dementia. Imagined pain from dementia can not be hypnotised away.
My life, my body, my choice.
None of you have the right to take that decision for me.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago

Absolutely.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

If you forget God.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
3 years ago

The trouble about leaving all moral questions to individual choice is that there is no such thing as individual morality. If everything is left to individual choice, we disappear as moral beings.
There may be a “residual” morality, though, by the “not harm” principle. You can argue that there will always be morality since we will always have the potential for harming each other. “Thou shalth not harm.”
But doesn’t that sound a bit shallow, or even empty? I will argue that negative “commandments” alone will never suffice to build a moral community. Nor will adding the option for everyone to join unions, clubs or even “communities”. Moral community is not a matter of “social contract” a la Rousseau. Morality is something you grow into and develop as a member of the community in question.
If you don’t, you are outside. Of, course; you would not be the only person outside. In fact, as our moral communities grow weaker, we all find ourselves gradually more alone – along with other “loners”. We all want to be decent people. But you cannot be decent without morality. And, I will argue, you cannot have morality without a moral community. We should protect what we have left. 

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Arild Brock

What has morals to do with this?
This isn’t a moral argument, this is deeply personal. It is my life. The only one I have, and it is really the only thing which I have total control over.
You can choose for yourself, and I would support your decision. But you have zero right to impose your decision on me. Or to invoke a ‘moral’ argument. Turning this into a philosophical discussion is to miss the point entirely.
Perhaps when you have had to watch a loved one screaming in pain because there really is no such thing as pain relief you may just understand where other people are coming from.
Perhaps you will understand better if you read what Marieke Vervoort had to say, and then tell me what gives you the right to condemned her to a continuing life of constant pain. Just so that you can feel morally correct within your community?
If your moral community condemns people to suffering I am glad that I am outside it. A community without compassion is not one I would want to belong to.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Why not go out and score them some fentanyl? Dark web, or the streets if you have some savvy?

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

But then you cant be sure its not some fake product, which works less effectively or not at all… Having to go through Dark web is less than optimal, with so many criminals about.
Better the government provides people what they need. Regulated and up to standard – So as not to fund criminals in the drug trade and other illicit dealings.

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Ever thought of setting up your own Suicide Cub?

We have one here in Arcadia, an excellent institution where one can discuss and plan accordingly.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
3 years ago

When I cross the street, I do not always wait for green. But if there is a child present, I always wait. One can distinguish between rules, practical convenience and morality. I find it a moral duty (albeit a minor one) not to lead a child waiting for green into temptation (or confusion). The point is: We may be morally relevant to each other beyond rules and convenience.
I believe I understand your concern about your parents. You seem to argue for them rather than for yourself. In any case, I take it “legalize individual choice” is your position.  
And I would not say that letting people die earlier than the most life-prolonging medicine can open up for, is morally wrong. What I mean is that euthanasia as a modern principle is morally wrong. Any civilisation must have an understanding of life and death. (If it hasn’t, it misses something important.) If we belong to the same civilisation, and I believe we do, in my opinion you should not shove me off by saying “I make my choice and you make yours”.
You describe strongly how your parents suffered. But could the last phase of their lives not have been improved in any other way than by shortening it? How actively would you say they should have been lead into death? Personally I find the idea of a “natural death” (also relevant to the Covid discussion) valuable. Would you say that your parents died a natural death? If not, what could have been one?
When I saw my mother for the last time, she could no longer speak. But when I left her bed in order to go, she grasped my arm and shook it. It was a meaningful farewell. As far as I know she did not have pain, though.
If we belong to the same moral community, would you answer my concern “euthanasia as a modern principle is morally wrong” as one member to another? Plainly insisting on individual choice is no answer; it is to give up morality in this area.
As we can see from the debate here “individual choice” seems to be understood as relevant to rather a wide range of situations – from physically healthy persons’ suicide to “inheritance theft”. Did you think of all this? I must admit I did not until now – I have more instinctively clung to a “holiness of life” idea. And I believe I was right, because I think suicide should be seen as wrong – and I believe respect for  “holiness of life” also prevents inheritance theft. But most important: “holiness of life” is self-evident. Life should not be reduced to a practical matter. If we agree on that, we can discuss the practical consequences for how and when to die.  

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Arild Brock

“holiness of life” is self-evident.
Sorry I don’t agree. I agree in allowing others to live and hopefully live well, I also agree in allowing others to die well, without suffering, in a calm dignified way that lets them go in the company of family.
I don’t think suicide is either good or bad. it is simply an outcome related to other external factors. If people wish to die – all effort should be made to look at those other external factors first, but then if they still wish to die – then that decision should be accepted.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

Suicide is murdering oneself .

Murder is always wrong

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
3 years ago
Reply to  Arild Brock

Very well said.

C S
C S
3 years ago
Reply to  Arild Brock

Blahblahblah

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  C S

Can you not even be considerate in your response to Arild?

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

You do realise that literally every aspect of your life is controlled by people who have decided what is best for you?
From childhood – parents. Since the 80s -the EU. Every control on the content of food, the structure of glass, the quality of what can be called steel. The dimensions of pieces of wood. It is all decided by other people as what is best (possibly not for you specifically) but at least in general terms.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 months ago

God’s life. God’s body. God’s choice.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago

Secularization leads to a focus on “Me!” Children and old people interfere with “Me!” They cost money, they take time, they impose obligations, they restrict freedom. The secular religion of “Me!” turned children and now old people from an obligation into an option. This is the fruit. The religion of “Me!” tends to produce very entitled devotees and doesn’t care very much if you willingly signed up or not.
If you think that euthanasia will remain optional or continue to be restricted to the very old, the very ill, or the unborn, then you are naive. You will look in horror at the genie you have let out of the bottle.

Last edited 3 years ago by James Rowlands
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

A dreadful oversimplification.
A “lack of ethics” is what tends people towards selfishness – not the refusal to believe in deities.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I bet your “ethics” are 90% influenced by Christianity. Wait a bit longer for them to be 30% Christian. Then you really get all the joy of living without God. Like all good secularists you will be appauled at what you have created and move away to places in the world that still have values. Unless of course, you have transgressed the new religion in some way, knelt and got a bullet in the back of your head.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

ethics are 90% influenced by humanity! – A good portion of ethics overlay in all cultures regardless of religion. Meaning christianity didn’t have much say or input.
Family values, Group loyalty, Reciprocity, Bravery, Respect, Fairness, Property rights.
Equality: believing everyone deserves equal rights and to be treated with respect. Is not a christian value, but a humanist value.
there are definitely cultural differences when it comes to priorities but our culture, country, religion and language do not affect nor dictate our moral values.

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Many of these behaviours also come from the basic characteristics of evolutionarily successful groups, which massively pre-date religion.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Yes, I believe directly from evolution! living together as a group requires those behaviours to create the necessary stability and reciprocity – No religion needed.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Well said, James Rowlands. I am appalled that so many in the comments section are endorsing euthanisia, which epitomises the banalization of evil.

Richard Lord
Richard Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Watch someone die a slow, lingering, undignified death, as I have, and see if you feel the same.

Dorothy Slater
Dorothy Slater
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

it always surprises me when healthy people of any age decide what a 90 year old with pancreatic cancer or some other terminal disease with only an 89 year old wife to care or him should do. This seems to me to be the height of control and hubris
My 90 year old mother with esophageal cancer told me that she was “tired” and my sister with the same disease said she didn’t want to spend her last months looking out the window knowing that her future meant more misery. . Both died naturally but had they lived in Oregon, a death with dignity state, , they might have chosen that. Be advised that there has to be a 6 month terminal diagnosis and two doctors have to sign off before any meds are given.
I have a friend who volunteers with Death with Dignity. Her patients are free to order the meds and not take them or take them with family and friends surrounding them dying a very peaceful death.
Why should come stranger decide for them?

Maureen Newman
Maureen Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Well said James. How often has liberty morphed into licence? The 1967 Abortion Act was based on the desire to prevent maternal death through back street abortion (I think the number of deaths mentioned was approx 100). The result of David Steel’s ‘compassion in action’? Abortion on demand and in America, the hideous ‘partial-birth abortion’. Human beings will always push the boundaries: they are simply not to be trusted with matters of life and death.

Andy Wright
Andy Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Maureen Newman

Nearly 110,000 abortions between Jan – June in 2020 in UK. Apparently Covid didn’t stop the killing of the innocent who had no choice. So many women in ‘danger of death’ during pregnancy. Didn’t hear MSM highlighting these stats on the daily briefings.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 years ago

What drugs or ideology is the author on?? I couldn’t disagree with him more. It’s an arrogant , dismissive, narrow , holier( more moral) than thou approach to death is pretty hard to take. So limited is his reasoning, I don’t know where to begin . But … the 96% overwhelming majority of – in favour , is proof that that is what is people want. Religion (which should be based on philosophy)was thought up / invented by mankind to give meaning and food to the soul. But in my opinion, it has become a shackle on mankind and a restrictive, binding, rigid structure it is today. Like the authors words, it is preachy and all knowing about suffering and dealing with it & its redemptive qualities. There was a time when any medical intervention was considered unholy and unChristian.
Pls spare me your sermon.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alka Hughes-Hallett
Richard Lord
Richard Lord
3 years ago

Well said.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
3 years ago

I couldn’t agree more.

Gareth Rees
Gareth Rees
3 years ago

Proposition three, the most important of all: physical suffering can be eliminated.” I am a Doctor with almost 40 years of experience and your proposition that palliative care can eliminate all suffering is utterly false so your entire thesis fails.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Rees

Well said

Christiane Dauphinais
Christiane Dauphinais
3 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Rees

True. I am a retired physician. I worked in a hospice for terminally-ill cancer patients for some years. No matter how specialized, well trained, and devoted we were in providing end-of-life care and pain control, we did not eliminate all suffering. Some patients died horrible deaths.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Rees

Thank you – and to Ian Barton and Christiane Dauphiais. Most people spend most of their lives with no contact with death other than a knowledge of a remote relative who went into hospital and shortly after died. The unpleasant details are completely unspoken of, and I think many – as I used to – think that the medical profession can provide totally painless palliative care toward the end. The realisation that this is not the case – particularly if coupled with watching a relative die slowly and/or in pain – is a horrifying experience.

I think the idea that people could deliberately put other people through that experience can only be a lack of experience, or a lack of imagination, or if neither, a lack of humanity.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

This seems a rather philosophical and remote perspective.
More and more people are coming round to accepting the right of the individual to manage their death.
Many finally come round to this perspective only when they experience one of their own relatives dying slowly from an increasingly debilitating terminal illness – who wishes to choose the timing of leaving.
I would not wish this to be the trigger point for the authors potential future conversion.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
David B
David B
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

That you use the phrase “coming round” shows how you assume this is an advance, a symptom of progress, when that evaluation is very much the question. To me, it feels presumptuous and a but arrogant to assume that all such developments are necessarily positive and desirable. The concept of the moral arc of history is just an idea, and certainly does not describe many people’s view of how human history has unfolded.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  David B

I’m merely pointing out that many people (understandably) are far more able to fully understand a subject when experiencing it “in the flesh”.
More knowledge tends to be helpful.
In this specific scenario, I believe that most people develop a greater understanding of the importance of the rights of individuals – over generalised philosophies about whether “a development is generally positive or negative”

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It’s a fact that there has never been as much medication for pain relief as there is today. There’s never been available so many surgical interventions to relieve suffering. Yet it’s not enough. People who are perfectly healthy and young are killing themselves on a daily basis. We have to ask ourselves what’s going on.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Josie Bowen

Agree absolutely, there is a world of difference between the scenario of terminal illness – and preventing avoidable suicide in the young.

barbara neil
barbara neil
3 years ago

I agree with the writer. It is true that people do not want to die or suffer. While we have at our disposal the ability to eliminate suffering while waiting for death, I think it the only safe road to take. I’ve read some horror stories that have taken place in Holland using euthanasia laws. Rational, yes, expedient, yes, but a degradation of life that is frankly horrifying.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  barbara neil

How best to explain to my mother that Biden is about to raise the inheritance tax, so if she keeps wasting time it could cost me dearly.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
3 years ago

I hold the comparison to abortion, done by Rasmus Fogh below/above, for relevant. Abortion has quickly become a routine thing – except perhaps in the eyes of those directly involved.
If euthanasia is legalised, the state will not only permit it. Having a public health service the state will play an active role in the execution (!) of the law’s consequences. We should distinguish those from the perhaps sensible individual wish to die fast when you are in the final stage. Or a wish to die while you are still a sensible person.
The relation between legality and morality has two sides: the individual case and general. It is not difficult to find individual stories that convince you abortion was the right thing. Some of the illegal abortions done at the time of prohibition were perhaps morally ok. I think legalizing abortion as well as legalizing euthanasia are both something else.
It is a great blessing that we can eliminate physical pain. It is more of a more mixed change in the human condition, that we can prolong life. The latter brings us not only blessing, but also difficulties. I think it may sometimes be morally right to prolong life less than maximally. I would also think that patients, relatives and doctors by and large deal sensibly with life and death under the current legislation. As long as we are a culture of morality, this works.
But I am afraid the wish to legalize euthanasia now comes from increasing moral uncertainty rather than from solidity. The state offers moral support, but should not. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”, was once generously said. Caesar now offers to take it all, but that is NOT generous. 

Harvey Johnson
Harvey Johnson
3 years ago

This is laughably batshit.

There is no possible rational proposition against euthanasia. His points are basically morphine, hypnosis and the piety of suffering.

Sorry, not good enough for me at all.