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The assisted-dying lobby has already won Emotive arguments rule our secular age

Esther Rantzen hailed Scotland's new leglislation as 'historic' (ViacomCBS)

Esther Rantzen hailed Scotland's new leglislation as 'historic' (ViacomCBS)


April 3, 2024   5 mins

What counts as a “dignified death”? On Monday, we got an intimation of what one looks like for Guardian readers, as journalist Renate van der Zee wrote about her elderly mother’s “completely calm, almost cheerful” legal demise at the hands of a visiting doctor in the Netherlands in 2022. After a speech to her three daughters about “how it was important to take care of the Earth wisely, to recycle as much as possible and to look after one another”, Jannèt drank the potion handed to her, and 15 minutes later reportedly met a peaceful and painless death.

In stark contrast to this beatific moment, the 90-year-old’s life before her exit had been “long and tormented”, according to her daughter. Factors that led to her decision to end things included “deafness, incontinence and many other conditions”, as well as a “lack of mental resilience” to cope with the suffering. One wonders what the deceased would have felt about such frank disclosures. While dignity in death supposedly now requires control over the precise timing of your demise, a discreet silence from relatives about the embarrassing details beforehand seems to have become optional.

Campaigners for assisted dying seek to eliminate messiness of various physical and emotional kinds, and their language is adjusted accordingly. At times, it can sound as if one is being offered a particularly relaxing spa treatment. With a pleasing ring of supportiveness, you are now being “assisted” in achieving something, rather than killed by a doctor or killing yourself. In van der Zee’s piece, the lethally toxic sedative given to “the patient” was merely a “drink”, and its administration a “procedure”, after which her mother “fell asleep”. Also in the past week, Scottish politicians sponsoring a new bill legalising voluntary euthanasia have stated that, once legalised, resulting deaths will be recorded as “natural” rather than as a result of suicide, with the suggestion that this will reduce the “stigma” around assisted dying. In other words, moral qualms will be framed as bigotry. (Then again, perhaps bureaucrats are just looking for a respectable cover story for Scotland’s ever-decreasing life expectancy rates.)

And alongside the sanitised language, there’s a tendency to place large amounts of trust in the future judgements of relevant unidentified authority figures, even in the face of blatant legal and medical failures of the recent past. Many activists seem convinced that any UK pro-assisted dying law will contain enough safeguards to avoid people being bumped off for the wrong reasons. And perhaps they are right, as far as the first iteration of any such law goes; but they are bound to be wrong about later extensions of it. Changes in social norms tend to roll down slopes rather than hurtle off cliffs; but either way we can all easily end up at the bottom.

Canadians, for instance, used to reject assisted dying, but now significant numbers would agree to expand the existing programme in order to include as respective qualifying reasons, “inability to receive medical treatment” (51% of respondents), and “homelessness” (28%). In the Netherlands, euthanasia is permitted on the basis of “hopeless and unbearable suffering” rather than fatal illness and is sometimes allowed for psychiatric illness alone. Given the degree of concept creep endemic to modern society, as we collectively grow yet more anxious and neurotic, who knows what mundane aspects of modern life will end up counting as “hopeless and unbearable” too?

I am using the future tense here deliberately, for it seems clear that such legislation will pass in the whole of the UK sooner or later. Its arrival has been heralded for a while now, not least by the safe, agent-approved involvement of TV personalities like Dame Esther Rantzen — herself now in the grip of Stage 4 lung cancer and apparently keener than ever on personal choice in this area. (Presumably she has forgotten saying that unvaccinated Covid sufferers should be left to expire on their own, wholly untreated by the NHS.) Other celebrities have been doing their bit by offering personal anecdotes of heart-rending suffering too, including some from beyond the grave.

The main tool their opponents tend to wield in response to such campaigning is a list of potential adverse consequences to society generally, should legalisation happen: for instance, that it might lead to martyr-ish types being guilt-tripped into taking up the option against their own best interests; or that its real appeal to economists is the cost-efficient dispatching of those who disproportionately drain health and social care resources. Indeed, the latter was actually positively embraced by Matthew Parris in his Times column last week. But really, either way, how can such abstractions compete, faced with the visceral power of a story about Dame Prue Leith’s brother’s agonising death from bone cancer? It is not that we care so much about what happens to celebrities and their families, but rather that, in a vacuum of personal experience where most of us have yet to see a dead body, their stories can act as psychic proxy for what we imagine or fear might happen to us.

“Their stories can act as psychic proxy for what we imagine or fear might happen to us.”

Since Parris’s article, some Christian commentators have argued that his chilling reasoning about the social utility of assisted dying has starkly exemplified how the value of individual human life can become negotiable in a post-God world, as we move instead to prioritise the good of the collective in utilitarian fashion. Yet the example of the many Canadians now willing, in principle, to see a painless death available for those poor and homeless people who convincingly say they want one, reveals that the good of the collective is far from the minds of many in contemplating such matters. In fact, society’s trajectory away from God and towards legalised euthanasia is less direct, and also less altruistic, than both Parris and his critics seem to think. It is not that an increasingly secular outlook directly causes us to prioritise collective benefit over the individual, but rather that it paralyses many of us intellectually, and means that a selfish mental focus upon alleviating future personal suffering is the only cause we can really get behind.

Or to put it another way: the real reason why the activists’ rhetoric eventually will prevail is that, without prior commitment to some deeply felt theological or philosophical principle about the intrinsic value of human life, all that is left for most of us are vague intuitions and orphaned remnants of moral reasoning inherited from a formerly Christian outlook. And these are no match against the powerful lure of a vision of preventing personal physical suffering in future, or the suffering of loved ones, via the offering of a serene and painless death.

This is what gives the edge to emotive anecdotes like those offered by van der Zee and Rantzen. Sure, to most of us, on the face of it there seems something wrong with doctors killing off the old and the sick even if they are mentally competent to assess the situation and fully acquiescent; but what is it, exactly? Lacking a convincing reference to God or some other organising value system, many will struggle to articulate the problem. They will naturally wonder: wouldn’t any harms caused be offset by the massive reduction in hideous, meaningless suffering? Back and forth the non-committal reasoning will go, leaving the argumentative field open to those with more immediate and self-interested emotional reactions to take the win.

As a matter of fact, though I myself cannot manage it, a full-throated and enthusiastic endorsement of utilitarianism and of the cumulative value of the collective over that of the individual might well knock the arguments of both Parris and Rantzen on the head. For, once introduced at scale and firmly embedded into existing social systems, the constant presence of the psychological possibility of assisted dying might easily wreak more quantifiable havoc than it prevents, in exactly the ways anticipated by critics: guilt-tripping those who feel like burdens into premature endings; tempting the already depressed towards easy oblivion, and so on. But to make this case convincingly would require a positive belief in something; and for many of us, real ardour for the principle of utility is just as hard to conjure up as a sincere belief in a Christian God. Those who want to see the back of assisted-dying laws had probably better start praying harder, though I wouldn’t hold out any hope.


Kathleen Stock is an UnHerd columnist and a co-director of The Lesbian Project.
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Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago

 “resulting deaths will be recorded as “natural” rather than as a result of suicide, with the suggestion that this will reduce the “stigma” around assisted dying”
The Woke sure love to manipulate language almost as much as they hate “stigma” (unless of course, it is the correct type of stigma by their lights, then it’s virtue)…

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

They know that stigma generally works, which is why they are so keen to stamp it out, unless it is the right kind of stigma in service of the right causes.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

We “smooth the language” around death all the time. We refer to grandma “passing away”, not “croaking”, or “dropping off the perch”, at least in polite conversation.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

‘Croaking’ and ‘dropping off the perch’ are equally euphemistic, though admittedly less polite. I’ve yet to find anyone taking offence at saying so-and-so has died. I’ve noticed a tendency recently (on the telly and such) to insert a ‘sadly’ before ‘has died’. I think this started with the daily Covid death toll announcements. Shows you care, or something.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Regrettably ‘we’ have become much more mawkish in recent years.

Such feebleness does NOT bode well.

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Actually, those are examples of dysphemism.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Granny was 90 and “sadly” she died!

Charlie Two
Charlie Two
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

yes, but we wont when someone arrives to give her two in the back of the head because she hits a certain age. we also dont use that language with our pets. it wont be long before we abandon ‘assisted’ and just say “we had granny put down. the old bag was costing us a fortune and whinging like billy-oh”.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Charlie Two

Even “put down” is a euphemism, whether it refers to getting a “green needle” from the vet, or a round of .308 through the head in the back paddock.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Charlie Two

Don’t be silly.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Or they have “transitioned” which these days has a whole different meaning.

P Branagan
P Branagan
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

With 71 up ticks for Sylvestre’s comment at the time of writing, any vaguely rational and/or moral human can only conclude that a very large number of Unherd readers are nasty, cruel human beings who want to cause as much human suffering as possible.
With enough effort and a few more medical ‘advances’ surely we’ll be able to increase ‘life’ expectancy dramatically – say to 200yrs. Now it’s a pity that 110 of those years you’ll be incontinent, have no movement of your limbs, have severe dementia and need 24/7 care by a team of 20 people ( allowing for annual leave etc).

Ronald Reagan famously remarked that the most terrifying sentence in the English language is: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you’.
Unherd readers seem to think the following sentence is OK:
‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help (actually demand!) that you stay alive no matter how much suffering you are enduring and without any regard for your repeated wishes to choose a time of your own peaceful ending’.

This for me smacks of the most totalitarian dystopia imaginable – a society that sets out to maximise human suffering out of a blind manic ideology.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

How did you get all of that from my comment about Woke sophistry…. I have mixed feelings about right to die laws etc. but I am unequivocal about my disgust for the Woke’s Orwellian language games…

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
2 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

An impossible society that would prevent any human from experiencing pain would indeed make us human robots. Rather, avoiding pain, and having compassion on others who suffer it, is the moral reason why we are alive. We are all in this together. Life is not a dystopia unless we make it one.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
2 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

In this country, as I understand it, we don’t keep people alive. Maybe I’ve got this wrong but palliative care is to relieve suffering (and we’re pretty successful at that, comparatively, I think) rather than prolong life.
My father in law had pneumonia; he asked the medics to throw ‘everything at it’ but he and we weren’t given a choice. When he didn’t show signs of recovery after five days they turned the machines off. They said it was kinder and it probably was, whatever he wanted. They didn’t keep him alive for years so don’t worry Mr Branagan, it won’t happen to you.
My mum had dementia and while her death was a release for us she fought until the end. To us her last months seemed horrible, but she presumably got something out of them.
That’s the thing really; I might say now I wouldn’t want to stay alive in that condition but what do I know? I’m not in that condition and haven’t been and I might be looking forward to a chicken pie or something tomorrow.
I look after someone who’s disabled and it looks a pretty limited existence to me but he thanks God every morning that he’s alive.
I’m glad it wasn’t an decision I was given with my mum.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Precisely. The VAD push is a bristling, narcissistic solution in search of a non-existent problem to attach itself to, I think largely as a method of contriving ‘meaning’ in the lives of those who think ‘meaning in life’ is something that, in a soon-to-be-perfected world, you’ll be able to order from Amazon, or pick up from an episode of That’s Life! or a Parris column.
But, y’know, the emptier the vessel, the more likely it is to resonate with the populist vibe of the days. Make the most of it, folks. It’s clearly what most of us think we need to salve what increasingly ails us. Huzzah, and two cheers for democracy.
Just so long as we don’t ever pretend we didn’t know what it was we were doing. Which is regressing, not progressing.

Stuart Maister
Stuart Maister
2 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

This is untrue, sadly, and the reason assisted dying is so important. My experience is exactly the opposite.

My mother was kept alive through a cocktail of drugs long after she wanted to go at the age of 93. My ex wife’s aunt was kept alive as a vegetable for years after two strokes, despite the pleas of her children to let her go.

Go to any geriatric ward and you will see any number of husks of human beings being kept alive to no benefit to themselves and – yes, using expensive resources which should be spent on their grandchildren.

I love KS’s columns but I really disagree with this one. The issue is not the lack of religion, it is the new dogma of scientific determinism that decides if someone lives or dies, whatever their condition, and this is a fight back by those who see life as precious and don’t see mere existence as valuable.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
2 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Maister

It’s my experience, but I appreciate yours is different.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

It’s hard for me to believe the hospital turned off machines keeping your father alive against your and his wishes.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

No longer 71 upticks, down to 8 at the time of writing. Why does unherd remove the ‘scores’? I can see an argument for not having them, but having them and taking them away at random intervals seems odd

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I’ve noticed that happens a lot, all upvotes and downvotes on comments suddenly resetting to zero long past the initial discussion. Maybe some sort of glitch whenever they update an article post-publication, or move it around in terms of post order, or something like that, would be my guess. If not, and it’s intentional – kind of an odd approach, I agree.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Yes, I also was going to raise this point myself. This has been happening regularly and, frankly, it is hugely disappointing.
I wrote to UnHerd’s support about this on March 22nd and received assurances that their IT team would be informed.
On March 26th I wrote again saying that the problem persisted.
So far, I have not received any reply.
And the problem persists…

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

How ’bout: ‘‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help (actually demand!) that you die no matter how much life you are enjoying and without any regard for your repeated wishes to maintain a peaceful continuing.’?
That somehow seems more horrific, more totalitarian, more dystopian than the other…but maybe it’s just me.
Seriously, though, I think the real question here truly becomes: why does the individual have to experience agonizing suffering before they qualify for ‘dignified & peaceful’ state-sponsored ending? That seems exceedingly arbitrary doesn’t it?
Bill wants to kill himself. He wants to do so painlessly, with dignity, and without causing his family a horrible mess…why would you deny him that option? Why would we trust that ‘I’m from the Government & I’m an Expert on whether or not YOUR particular life is worth living’ is somehow magically better than simply trusting Bill to make the right choice for him when he enters the Ethical Suicide Parlor and asks for a Death Smoothie?
I’m not sure what that says about a society that makes Death such an easy and attractive option…but I don’t think it’s good.

Paul Curtin
Paul Curtin
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

As usual great writing from Kathleen Stock.
There is an insidious thin wedge of morally ropey reasoning by those enforcing it to policy.
Euthanasia is now coyly called assisted dying and has started with terminally ill but morphed slowly towards helping dispose of those who are mentally ill, depressed, homeless etc. See Canada for examples.
More nihilistic policy to dispose of the inconvenient. I did 18 years in healthcare by the way.
Whats next? the prison population, the underclass? Who decides – an essay in itself I suspect.
The casualness adopted of taking a life and the normalisation of it is very scary.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
2 months ago

An interesting (as always) examination by Kathleen Stock of some of the key points concerning the issue of assisted dying. Others may disagree, but my impression is that she doesn’t come down on one side or the other, but seeks here to illuminate rather than fulminate.
I’ve no doubt that the discussion that ensues will be taken along familiar lines, and she outlines the broad positions: those with a religious (or specifically Christian) persuasion may be against assisted dying on principle, while those who don’t subscribe to a religious outlook may be more inclined to favour it. She seems to suggest that without the backstop of a specifically religious outlook, there’s nothing to stop encroachment on the ‘sanctity’ of human life.
Those who don’t have religious faith may find it very difficult to argue against assisted dying due to a lack of first principle; hence, it may be adopted into law. I’m in favour of very strictly controlled assisted dying – and yes, i understand the ‘slippery slope’ argument – but i just can’t countenance the continuation of intractable and unbearable pain for weeks on end. It’s just not humane. We wouldn’t allow it to happen to our treasured pets, so what is it that makes humans different in terms of their capacity to suffer?
This, for me, turns the entire argument on its head, thus: it’s up to those who oppose any form of assisted dying to set out by what principle they’re prepared to accept unbearable pain in their nearest and dearest – beyond the best that current palliative care can alleviate.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

From what I have read of the discussion here the principle seems to be that they fear pressure from greedy relatives or a government trying to save money on national health services, especially for low income people. These suspicions are supposed to trump any legitimate concerns for “unbearable pain in their nearest and dearest – beyond the best that current palliative care can alleviate”.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

What is unbearable? By what measure? According to whom?
And how far does palliative care extend?
There is massive difference between choices made to ease pain & thus make a human life possible…and choices made to end life and thus eliminate everything.
The Christians say God gave us life, it is not for us to throw it away. The Buddhists tell us suicide doesn’t end suffering, it simply leads to more & different suffering. The Muslims identify it as a cardinal sin and a barrier to Paradise.
The slope you describe as slippery is nothing but slide…and the end of the slide is death. Death on demand, by rule, at whim, according to those who always know best, what’s best for us. It begins, as all paths to Hell begin, with good intentions and we drape those intentions with great solemnity and speak of intractable pain. But then we redefine ‘pain’…and what is intractable….and we tell ourselves we KNOW when Life is no longer worth living (even if my demented father does not)…and we know when things are hopeless (even if the fool insists, where there’s life there’s hope).
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
We used to gasp when we heard that cold, hard phrase uttered by the sepulchral miser. Now it seems we applaud.
After all… that surplus, those homeless…the unwanted, lonely, diseased, aged, demented, depressed, anxiety-filled, mentally-ill, and lost populations which surround us, in total, create one hell of a carbon footprint. Add to the mix those who practice misinformation, who cling to the Four Olds (their guns & their religion), the deplorables, et al….and the well-managed ‘cleansing’ of the undesirables might work wonders!
This must be absolutely refused.
Mark Helprin, in a luminous essay entitled “Falling into Eternity” puts it this way: “Tests of faith great and small come like horizontal, wind-driven rain. They challenge individuals and whole societies, especially those like ours in sudden decline…. The greatest test of faith, success in which one can neither fake nor will, is death, which is not to say that death is the most difficult thing—the most difficult thing being to witness the suffering and death of innocents, especially those one truly loves, especially children. But, like a body drawn into the gravity of the sun, as one approaches one’s own death, the light and heat of great reckoning and absolute transformation of state burn away everything as if in a refiner’s fire, leaving only intense love, joy, and tranquility….
And in the most dire and dreadful situations…when all else fails, when nothing is left and you are powerless and done, the one shield and maker of justice beyond the realm of temporal powers and mortality is love. It is the conqueror of grief, and, somehow, the protector of those whom we care for even in their suffering.”

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago

In 1910, life expectancy at birth in England was 51 for males and 55 for females. Anyone who reached their early fifties considered themselves lucky. Many who did suffered from chronic ill health, unable for physically demanding work, which accounted for most jobs in those days. So they were likely to be, or shortly to become, a financial burden. If euthanising people of advancing years had been normalised then, it seems unlikely that the medical advances which subsequently extended life expectancy and the quality of life for older people would ever have happened. In the short term killing is always cheaper and easier than caring or curing. But there is nothing dignified
about it. And when the financial stakes for the State and for family members are so high, the cheaper and easier option can quickly move from a choice to an unavoidable implied obligation.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Cue Monty Python’s “Bring out your dead” skit….

Charlie Two
Charlie Two
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

“can quickly move from a choice to an unavoidable implied obligation” and then to obligatory. Logan’s Run becomes a template not a sci-fi film. Logan’s Run without the Run and no Jennie Agutter! Hell indeed.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Charlie Two

Jennie Agutter, indeed! 1976!

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

But the reason life expectancy was so low was, in large part, vastly higher infant mortality. Someone lucky enough to reach their fifties in the early 20th century could still reasonably expect a decade or two of healthy life.

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago
Reply to  Quentin Vole

This. It always irritates me when people get this wrong. When a country’s life expectancy is 30, as it was in imperial Rome or certain developing countries not long ago, the figures are massively skewed by the massive number of infant mortalities that tend to occur under the age of 5 in places without proper medical care and nutrition. If you survive infancy, you are more likely than not good until your 60s at least.

Tom C
Tom C
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Life expectancy *at birth* was 51/55… I’m going to estimate the numbers to make a point about life expectancy: In the same year, 1910, anyone who in their early fifties had a life expectancy of probably 65/70 (later than life expectancy at birth due to “peaks” of death in early child hood, young adulthood, and finally end of life). Anyone who reached 25, life expectancy was probably 60/65. At 10, life expectancy was 55/60, etc. Many who survived lead normal healthy lives….

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago

The issue with basing society’s ethics on any kind of sky god is there isn’t one and I just cannot pretend there is… Still, morals and ethics can flow from themselves into themselves:
Human Life is Valuable because Human Life is Valuable (repeat ad infinitum)… It is because it is, next question…

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

All dogma reduces to tautology. Yours is indistinguishable from more formalized versions in scripture. Except that it lacks codification and the wisdom of our ancestors.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Your point is ultimately nihilistic and self-defeating. To suggest we’re incapable of finding a moral position in this or any other matter without recourse to a non-existent entity is to deny the whole of humanity any agency whatsoever.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Not what I am saying. I am not saying that we must rely on a false diety I am saying the we do Not have to nor do we have to justify our first principles such as life having value…

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

It doesn’t deny agency at all. It simply denies Moral Relativism. Without the anchor of an Absolute then everything is permissible and Better or Worse is simply measured by whatever subjective rule one might care to apply.
Certainly in such a world, we can set whatever moral position we like but it will always be as reeds, shaken by the wind.
Agency…free will, of course, exists in both belief systems… And Matt is free to build self-referential tautologies all he likes, even given God. That Matt denies Him is Matt’s problem, not God’s.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Quite so and well said… But there still ain’t no sky god…

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Thanks!
But as I said, your problem…. not God’s.
Allow me to share a brief but beautifully eloquent quote from Mark Helprin, as to the question of Faith:
““As long as you have life and breath, believe. Believe for those who cannot. Believe even if you have stopped believing. Believe for the sake of the dead, for love, to keep your heart beating, believe. Never give up, never despair, let no mystery confound you into the conclusion that mystery cannot be yours.”
Or…with Pascal…make the wager!

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Perfectly said.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Mine does not rely on a fundamental lie.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

What does yours rely on, and is it true?

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Mine relies on nothing as subatomic particles rely on nothing…It stands on its own and it is true simply because it is (yes, circular, that’s the point)

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

But it isn’t. Nor does it have to be. And isn’t that the point?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 months ago

Another excellent piece by Kathleen Stock.

It is well paired with one of Mary Harrington’s pieces from 2021 – ‘The Death of Britain’s Dignity’ that everyone would do well to revisit.

Adoptive Loiner
Adoptive Loiner
2 months ago

I find there is a real narcissism that comes with demands for assisted dying.

Nevermind all those who would not be strong enough to resist giving up their lives, or those who would die that would not need to if they had the right treatment, or those that might change their minds but cannot because they would be dead.

No, instead it’s ‘I demand society be changed, so that I can die peacefully and cleanly at a time of My choosing, and with the full backing of the state.’ All couched in professions of concern for others of course.

If you’re that worried about suffering when you’re ill or old don’t wait that long, do it now. If you really want to end it all there are plenty of ways to do it, jumping in front of a train’ll do it. But what people are really asking for is validation and convenience, without accepting, or perhaps even caring, that swapping the right to life for the right to death will come at the cost of countless lives taken wrongly, unnecessarily, even accidentally.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 months ago

” I can die peacefully and cleanly at a time of My choosing,”

But why have they chosen it? Probably because life has become meaningless to them when there is no enjoyment left. When the end is in sight and their body, already failing, is going to render them helpless before they die.

Whatever happened to the nobility of self-sacrifice? I don’t think a healthy person would suicide simply in order to give their grandchild their house, but I think it’s admirable to weigh up your own lack of pleasure at being alive with the benefit of not costing the community resources that are needed elsewhere, and decide, after a life lived, to check out. Or are we all convinced, in our wealthy societies, that there’re always enough resources for everything?

I’m not persuaded by Kathleen’s slippery slope argument. Of course making one change doesn’t mean we won’t then go further, if we want to. We went step by step from legalising homosexuality to same-sex marriage. No one at the time of decriminalisation imagined they would be, down the track, voting for gay marriage (in Australia). Change keeps happening if we vote for it.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 months ago

If you’re not persuaded about the slippery slope argument, Canada is an interesting (& worrying) example to look at, as is the Netherlands.
In both cases lots of reassurances were given when the law was changed that there would be no ‘creep’ within a few years that’s precisely what happened

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Canada and The Netherlands are democracies; the people are presumably getting what they want and can vote to change it if they aren’t. I imagine polls in the U.K. show majority support for Australian-style voluntary assisted dying. Should the government refuse to do what the majority want?

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

Would you apply the same argument to capital punishment?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I wouldn’t want to, but I think I would have to. The alternative is what – something other than democracy? We have to persuade a majority to vote ‘the right way’, and by doing that we have made tremendous gains in so many areas without giving up our critically important democracy.

Governments can take a lead, for example by abolishing capital punishment, before a majority supported that, but then in subsequent elections the electorate gets a chance to change that position (if there’s a party that thinks it’s worth challenging the policy).

Ju Go
Ju Go
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Switzerland is the best model. Assisted suicide legal since the 1940s, with very few conditions, except you must be rational, and do the deed yourself, having convinced a doctor to prescribe the drug. There has been no great rush to the door (only 1.5% of all Swiss deaths), no slippery slope as there are very few conditions anyway, and there is overwhelming support for the policy (85% voted in 2011 to not ban it). Let’s copy them!

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
2 months ago

There is always a slippery slope, so to deny being able to see it is to be particularly obtuse.

Slippery slope examples abound. Other countries for assisted dying give us good insight, but “life will mean life” when the death penalty was ended for murder, the ease with which abortion is administered these days, despite assurances, and the decriminalisation of homosexuality ending up with the Christian Church endorsing gay marriage, are just a few.

Fundamentally though, taking another human life is wrong. It’s the first commandment, and we used to know this as a society.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 months ago
Reply to  Nick Wade

Does the slippery slope argument apply to changes you do like? We started off giving the vote to propertied men, then more men got the vote … and eventually women got the vote, and then 18 year-olds, and now 16 year-olds want it: the slippery slope in action.
I think the first commandment meant not killing others – and even then we have exceptions, such as war. Killing yourself is another thing, and you could look to the early Christian martyrs for examples of people who were ready to give up their lives for their beliefs.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
2 months ago

I’m not sure we’d agree on what a “good” slippery slope is.

Regards killing, there is a distinction between doing it yourself and having someone do it to you. They may be a doctor, but the right doctor can be found to do all sorts of sick things. See the Tavistock Clinic for further details, where the State and “medicine” have collectively butchered and blighted lives.

War is an interesting one, but it could be argued that it is ultimately an act of self defence. Whilst the Bible outlawed killing, it didn’t do so as a punishment, because the taking of a human life was considered so heinous.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 months ago
Reply to  Nick Wade

A slippery slope, Nick, is when you start having a drink after dinner, then decide to have another one after lunch, then perhaps another later in the evening ….

I don’t think a slippery slope is when a series of changes are made to laws with each stage being debated and passed in Parliament. That’s just considered change.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
2 months ago

You missed the descriptor “good” in my reply.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago

What is unconvincing about a Slippery Moral Slope?
The West abounds with evidence of our continual slide on every moral issue imaginable.
Think pedophilia is beyond the pale? Or incest? Or or or or??? It’s all out there… and there are those arguing for it (whatever it may be), even as we speak.
It is human nature to slide…to sin….to err…and easiest to do in little, easy & slippery, incremental steps.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago

First of all, committing suicide is hardly as easy as as you claim and many people do in fact botch it. It is made difficult because society wishes to discourage it. Even assembling the requisite number of pills becomes an issue precisely because the state if you like it the law is trying to stop you doing so.

What is quite extraordinary to suggest why not commit suicide today when you can because you might be suffering and unbearable disease in 20 years time!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Lack of logic abounds on this thread.

Philip Anderson
Philip Anderson
2 months ago

“But what people are really asking for is validation and convenience, without accepting, or perhaps even caring, that swapping the right to life for the right to death will come at the cost of countless lives taken wrongly, unnecessarily, even accidentally.”
not really – there’s always going to be mistakes.
what i personally am doing, by asking for the right to choose my exit, is saying that i fear a messy, painful death from cancer or similar far more than i fear the possibility of being bumped off a bit too early.
it should be obvious that, while both are possibilities, the risk of the former considerably outweighs the latter, and it is on that basis i make my decision.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago

And subject oneself to perhaps not doing the job properly? Subjecting others to the trauma of seeing this unfold or finding a body with traumatic injuries? Typical ‘compassionate‘ response.
Don’t please conflate the principle of assisted dying with the process attached to it.

Samantha Stevens
Samantha Stevens
2 months ago

There is great truth in what you say. Stock up on pills now. That way the means are they when you want them. But legalizing something that threatens the disabled, elderly, and impoverished is just despicable.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago

I have read a few articles like this recently, and I confess to find the whole thing baffling. From a personal perspective, I think I have the right to end my life when I wish to do so, and if it stops being fun (based on my personal judgment alone), I will do just that. I am fortunate to own a firearm, but even if I didn’t, I could easily jump off something or in front of something. However, those things are “messy”, and will leave something that someone will have to “clean up”. I just don’t get the objections to a medical means of achieving the same result. I appreciate that this sort of thing is contrary to some people’s religious views, and that is fine, but why should their religious views impact on my rights?

McExpat M
McExpat M
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Think like a bureaucrat and not an individual on this one and you will see the grave danger that lurks in loose legislation that is couched in the language of feelings and autonomy. When faced with a cost of living crisis, an aging population and a collapsing healthcare system, what lever does the bureaucrat pull? Why on earth would they ever aim to make things materially better for people if you can grind them into an early death. So much cheaper.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  McExpat M

Worse than that… how easily we accept the assertion that THEY, whoever the ‘they’ might happen to be, know best what’s best for us. And given a collection of State-Certified-Experts…how easily and how quickly that expertise is translated into a well-managed, comfortable, warm & welcoming ‘Ministry of Love’ which designs and oversees the very best possible ‘Departure’ process for all those who qualify.
And guess who designs and administers the Qualification System?
The Red Guard, during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, campaigned homicically against the Four Olds (Old Ideas, Old Customs, Old Cultures, Old Habits). Millions were killed. How much simpler & more direct when the Fifth Old is “UnWanted Deplorabled”?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

It is because it fundamentally and irreversibly changes the nature of medical care for all. Since it is always cheaper just to cut to the chase, that is what becomes the standard. Palliative and other expensive forms of care are gradually withdrawn, reducing patients’ choice. In that context, religious views are neither here nor there.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

This is a risk to be managed – not an inevitability as you suggest.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

“[The Ring] should have been kept, hidden, hidden dark and deep. Not used, I say, unless at the uttermost end of need, but set beyond his grasp, save by a victory so final that what befell would not trouble us, being dead.”

McExpat M
McExpat M
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Do you feel confident this risk would be managed? Society is doing poorly when it comes to mitigating against unintended consequences. Take the whole trans phenomenon. It didn’t take long to go from let’s just accept these people to let’s give kids puberty blockers and mastectomies. I’m past putting trust in our ‘experts’. Until perverse incentives are expunged from our institutions we are in grave danger from progressive ideology.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

The point of medical care is to alleviate suffering. Your position seems to require it to prolong suffering. You seek to impose something on humans that you would be prosecuted for if you imposed it on dogs.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

And when we determine that one’s life balance has shifted and now contains more suffering than not, it’s our duty to ‘alleviate it’, as you say, by ending it?
The point of medical care, as stated quite explicitly by the Hippocratic Oath is quite simply: to “do no harm or injustice to them… I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art.”
Such a vow drives the physician to seek to end the pain, not the patient.
But suffering, my friend, is indeed a fundamental part of life. There is no such thing as a life free from it, nor would any of us truly wish it so. C.S. Lewis put it this way: ““Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

“….it’s our duty to ‘alleviate it’, as you say, by ending it?
Not “duty”. “Choice”. I am acutely aware that some people seem to relish “suffering”. That too is their choice.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

No one relishes suffering…save as a path towards a higher state.
But we do accept it when acceptance is all you have.
No one is denying free choice….and if anyone so chooses to end it all, that indeed is their choice.
But no, the State must not sanction it … must not enable it…. nor should we build or encourage some sort of perversely inverted ‘medical institution’, with our own white-jacketed Mengele’s, to destroy the very thing that Medicine (art & science) is pledged to protect.

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

No it doesn’t. We don’t know the future. It is merely a projection – your opinion – dare I say it scaremongering.
You might make the same argument about pregnancy terminations for Down’s Syndrome. According to your line of reasoning, the NHS would be actively pushing pregnant women to terminate any pregnancy likely to result in a Down’s Syndrome child, given the lifetime medical and social costs this puts on society at large. And yet they do not.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

85.2% of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome antenatally were terminated in 2018
https://www.dsmig.org.uk/information-resources/by-topic/demography/

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

So what ?
The point is not the % value, but who made the decision.
Those decisions were made by the prospective parents and not made or coerced by the NHS. And quite rightly so.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Not coerced by the NHS. Yet the NHS carried out the mothers’ decisions that they were carrying life not worthy of life.

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

And your point is what ?
The mothers’ made the decision. The NHS followed the law and ethical standards.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

And they say opponents of euthanasia do so on the basis of a naive quasi-religious faith! About 95% of Irish parents whose babies are diagnosed with Down syndrome now have an abortion, effectively eliminating support services for Downs and making the decision not to abort much more difficult. And this from a position just a few years ago when abortion on those grounds in Ireland could not happen. So yes, exactly the same reasoning applies.

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

This is complete nonsense.
How does reducing demand for support leave fewer resources for the smaller group of children needing the support ? Law of supply and demand applies. The support situation would be worse if there were fewer terminations – not more.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The crucial difference between you offing yourself with your shotgun and a clinic following a procedure to achieve the same aim – albeit less messily – is the fact that the former is an individual action and the latter a collective one.
It’s like the difference between the enraged father of a child rape victim killing the pedophile, and a court issuing a judgement for his execution by electric chair.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

You’ve just demonstrated precisely why it should be possible for assisted dying to be made legal – with the right safeguards! Hoist by your own quasi-moral petard.
The case you make for society being the arbiter of what should be possible in the case of a death penalty can be brought in the very same way for assisted dying.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Goodness. You again. You have a knack for misunderstanding my comments. Where, pray tell, do I make a case for society being the arbiter of what should be possible in the case of the death penalty? I am simply pointing out, in response to an earlier comment, that there is no moral equivalence between suicide and assisted dying, any more than vigilantism – right or wrong – is morally equivalent to the death penalty.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I don’t see why the latter has to be a collective action. A doctor saying “There’s a hell of a lot of morphine in this machine, just keep pushing the button until the pain stops”, but letting the patient actually push the button is a decision of the patient. I recall that in Dignitas, the doctor actually says “If you drink this, you will die”, but it is the patient who drinks.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Pretty much the only thing both sides in this debate currently agree on is that an action like you just described on the part of a doctor must repose upon a set of societally agreed procedures, which in turn must rest of an agreed set of principles.
You are thinking well outside the parameters of the current debate – that’s not to say you’re wrong, it’s just not where the debate is now.
For example, what if the doctor-patient relationship were sufficiently devolved to the point where no common medical code existed? Then one’s choice of doctor becomes an extension of one’s own values and principles…an interesting thought exercise, but not one anyone in the debate would be prepared to consider seriously.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Everything impacts everything.
But in truth your ‘right’ to commit suicide doesn’t change even if we continue to deny State-Assisted Suicide. You simply can’t enlist the State (or your Doctor) to help you do it….or your community to pay for it.
In fact Society /The Law constrains your rights in ways too numerous to count. And the source for most of those laws is, indeed, the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Freedom of choice is never an infinite, unconstrained freedom absent all consequence. Rather we trade that freedom, continually, for protection from the consequences of Other’s exercising their own ‘unfettered freedom’.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

And the source for most of those laws is, indeed, the Judeo-Christian tradition“.
I suspect that this is my fundamental issue with them. The sooner that we can get this “Judeo-Christian” nonsense out of our lives, the better.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

And what, in the absence of the Absolute, is left?
Your own Good Judgement? Mine? A consensus vote of those still standing? A spin of the Fortune Wheel or flip of the Crooked Coin?
No my friend, in the absence of God there is nothing.
We become hollow men; we become stuffed men
Leaning together   
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar  
   Shape without form, shade without colour,
   Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
That..is what is left.

Arthur King
Arthur King
2 months ago

Want to see the future? Look at Canada’s descent into inhumanity where the poor are given the choice death in order to escape poverty. Pure godlessness.

McExpat M
McExpat M
2 months ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Yes soon to be expanding to mental illness and including ‘mature minors’. what could possibly go wrong with the most anxious and neurotic young generation constantly plugged in and manipulated by social media?

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Oh, seriously? I have read a bit on Canada’s laws (although I do not live there), and they don’t give the impression of giving rise to anything even remotely like that.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

I agree. As a retired Canadian lawyer I have read the applicable laws. You need two independent physicians who don’t know each other to confirm that you meet the 5 statutory requirements to access medical assistance in dying. The criteria do not include poverty and no one is forced or pressured to die as that is a criminal offence. I have not heard of any physician who has been charged with that crime.

Some 63 percent of the people who have used this procedure were last stage cancer patients. Other reasons included terminal heart and lung collapse. The statistics are available on line. Mental illness alone is not a criterion in the law.

If you believe that only God can decide when you will die, so you should suffer with your cancer or ventilator or congestive heart failure until you eventually die, you will certainly be opposed to the exercise of personal autonomy in making that decision. That seems to be Kathleen Stock’ position.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Roman

Yes. Speaking as a (not yet retired) Australian lawyer, the Canadian laws seem sensibly drafted, and not all that far removed from the Australian position.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Roman

How do the physicians know for certain in all cases,that there are no hidden pressures from, say, a family member?

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

Of course there is no way to be sure, but in most cases that I have read the pressure is the other way. Children of aged parents or spouses often pressure them not to arrange for MAiD, or to exercise their right to cancel the procedure even at the last minute.
I don’t know what empirical basis there is for the often expressed and cynical view that greedy children will want to pressure their parents to die soon via MAiD, and that the parents, obeying their children, will lie to their physicians when routinely asked whether anyone has pressured them. I guess this view, versus the opposite, that family members will want the patient to stay alive until they die of natural causes, depends on one’s perception of human nature.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

Perhaps you can’t be certain but that’s a risk that has to be taken to protect the majority for whom it is a choice.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Roman

And those who want to continue without quality of life are free to make that choice. Assisted suicide should be my choice, just as abortion should be my choice.

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
2 months ago

“…without prior commitment to some deeply felt theological or philosophical principle about the intrinsic value of human life, all that is left for most of us are vague intuitions and orphaned remnants of moral reasoning inherited from a formerly Christian outlook.”
Edited for concision, this would read: “without some Christian [ or philosophical ] outlook, all that is left are remnants from a Christian [ or philosophical ] outlook.”
Well, yes.
Still, Kathleen Stock may have a point there. For Christians, every life is precious, particularly in a world full of pagans. She may also be right that there is an unsavoury cost/benefit, individual v collective calculation involved here. It wouldn’t surprise me.
But mightn’t the simplest explanation for the unquiet aversion to assisted suicide be its complicity in giving up? To fight for life is an instinct that goes back a lot further than the theological. Being alive is all about living, right? Logically, it is counter-intuitive to want to embrace its opposite.
And yet, the story comes to mind of an Eskimo woman, old and not well, going off into the winter night …
Just as to the point, speaking of going off into the cold, there is Scott of the Antarctic….

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago

Good point, although it was Oates rather than Scott himself who said “I am just going outside and may be some time”.
As to “embracing death”, the fact is we are all going to have to do that at some point. Far better (in my view) to make a rational decision on when it happens, rather than wait until the joy of living is long gone.

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yes, there are so many aspects to this. To not be a burden, and preferring not to live at any price, are just two of them. The state should stay as far away from such personal issues as possible.
All these years and I thought that was Scott. Never too late to be set straight.
Thanks.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

I agree, it’s the involvement of the state that chills me. A nod and a wink between doctor and family, maybe. I suspect that fear of litigation might be driving this from the practitioners’ end.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Thank god for the nod and wink.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 months ago

How are you absolutely sure that all families always want the best interests of the ill person? That, say inheritance or dislike/hate would never play a part?

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

What a strange bit of logic there.
Rather than wait until the joy of living is long gone….kill yourself while it’s still here? That makes no sense.
Certainly , yes, we all know — at some level or another — the inevitability of death….but do we ’embrace it’ or simply accept that inevitability? Or perhaps, instead, it’s more accurate to say we embrace life…and since death is a part of life, equally we embrace the truth of that mortal end.
But still do we not, should we not….rage, rage against the dying of the light….do not go gentle unto that good night?

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Just to clarify, if I reach the point where I say “This is no longer fun, and it isn’t going to be again”, then I’m out. I don’t see a problem with embracing death. It is after all a part of life. As to that “raging” thing, if that is the way you want to see yourself out, go ahead, but I won’t be joining you.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Totally your choice; nor would I deny you your freedom to Quit.
But do not look to the State to enable it; the Doctors to bless it; or your Neighbors to fund it. It’s all on you…Embrace it all you like.
Still, I would urge you, as a friend, to Embrace Life, Embrace Love…but equally I recognize that though I may lead you to Water, I can’t make you drink.

Jonathon
Jonathon
2 months ago

I’ve read many arguments against assisted suicide and yet to find one that convinces me against the concept. Most of them ironically from folk who are vehemently individualistic except for this matter.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathon

I suspect religious belief is the key driver of their position.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yes, there is this awkward thing, the fifth commandment (sixth by some reckoning). Since ‘cultural Christians’ seem to be in the news, what is their position? I suspect this is an area where their morality becomes a bit more a la carte.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathon

Okay, here’s one: What of an 18 year old who decides she no longer has any enjoyment in life? Can she get the death serum?
Of course you would say no, but the question is why is this different to a terminally ill 81 year old who asks for the same juice?
After all, both are on a path to death.
To distinguish between the two, you must make some (arbitrary) judgement on what is the value of residual life. And who makes this judgement and on what basis? That is not a trivial point, neither in law nor in moral reasoning.

Phil Richardson
Phil Richardson
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Spot on. Once assisted dying is granted there are no principled reasons to prevent ‘mission creep’ only apparently ‘practical’ ones. And then those with the loudest voices win.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

It isn’t a trivial point… so why trivialise it? if it’s beyond our abilities to distinguish between the two and provide for safeguards that actually work, we might as well all just give up. For the record, i never, ever give up.

McExpat M
McExpat M
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

We are but seconds into this experiment in Canada and currently a court case where a father is facing the planned death of his 27 year old because she has autism and ADHD. He’s lost the appeal btw. Is that a failure of his parenting or the wider society? What does that say about Canada?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Stop conflating principle with process. A trend amongst the ‘compassionate’.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago

I’m not conflating principle with process. The process must stem from the principle, and this is the principle iin question here:
How do we, as a society, decide which deaths it is permissible to assist? There must be some criterion, as the example above illustrates. And these go to the core values of what we as a society believe is the purpose of life.
Is it to ‘be happy’? In this case, one can well imagine that a line, however, messy, can be drawn between a physically healthy 18 year old girl who wants to die, and a terminally ill 85 year old woman suffering chronic pain: We can simply decide that if you have >x number of QALYs left, you cannot ‘want’ to die (i.e. if you are ‘suicidal’ if you do, hence mentally unhealthy, and we will treat you and put you in a protected cell with padding etc.). If you have <x QALYs to go, your desire for death is socially acceptable and we will give you the death juice.
But what if our purpose in life is not to ‘be happy’, but to gain wisdom and mature along a path to some higher consciousness? This, after all, was the collective wisdom of our ancestors for millennia.
And even in the former, hedonistic case, where does one draw that line? What about me, a 48 year old guy with some lower back pain and a bum knee? Can I get the death serum or would my desire for an end to it all be mental ill-health that needs to be medicated away with the happy drugs? What about when I’m 58? 68? Two bum knees? Arthritis? Sleep apnea?
As Stock and others have said, there is a worrying tendency for this line to drift down and find its place, not based on any higher principles, but at a point where profits are maximised and the interests of the powerful are served.

Jonathon
Jonathon
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I’m no lawyer or law maker so the specifics of how this plays out in written legislation I do not know. I do, however, know there is a distinct difference between those scenarios, as I am sure you do too, and anyone reading it. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that it can be written into law.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathon

Oh but is there really a ‘distinct’ difference? What about this 28-year-old Dutch woman, currently on Assisted Death Row in the Netherlands:
https://x.com/TheFP/status/1775278989566955649?s=20

El Uro
El Uro
2 months ago

It is very unpleasant to see the speed with which society is degrading to the level of a crowd.
However, this, alas, happens and the comments to this article perfectly illustrate this process. You are no longer humans. Humans care about each other, and you are just a collection of individuals.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

I care sufficiently about my fellow humans to allow them a dignified death if they want one.

El Uro
El Uro
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

First they say that women should be independent. Women devote themselves to their careers and do not give birth to children. Then the population declines.
They then replace the population with invaders. The indigenous population is declining even faster, but not fast enough. Then they offer euthanasia to the old and sick, and then to everyone who wants it.
In the end, you are not a person, you are just an economic unit that needs to be removed when it is not profitable.
If you’re okay with being a nobody, I have no problem. Goodbye Britain.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Coming back to Britain I’m struck by the use of “they” all the time in conversation. Surely in a democracy, or among people capable of a democracy, the word should be “we”? Obviously this is not particular to Britain.

Throwing the occasional “I” among the ‘they’s has ironically the exact opposite effect of distinguishing the individual from the ‘they’ he condemns?

But of course one can’t call just talking conversation?

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Not sure of the relevance, and in any event, I left Britain in ’67.

McExpat M
McExpat M
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Then why should any physician or bureaucrat get involved at all? I’m fine with your premise as long as you remove the middle men of death.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 months ago

The average age of Canadians seeking MAiD is 77, and many die before it is administered. Yet it has become popular for writers to attack the procedure. Most of these writers are far younger than that, and find it difficult to empathize with people close to a reasonably foreseeable death who don’t wish to prolong their agony. So they mock the people who are exercising their autonomy in making this choice. It is not merely a trendy fashion, as Stock suggests. It is not promoted by the government to save money or eliminate the poor. The Canadian government has opposed legalizing the procedure from the beginning, but was forced by the courts to allow it.

I would rather see an emotive argument that makes sense in respecting individual autonomy than an emotive argument that denies its emotive nature but doesn’t make sense.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago

Amazing to me that so many people support leaving people to live in horrific pain which has no chance of resolution. This ‘living’ can last for many years. It seems skewed that these smug people will refer to themselves as moral and compassionate.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago

I can explain their position. They are Christians, which in their view entitles them to be smug, and dress it up as morality and compassion.

McExpat M
McExpat M
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

What a bigoted statement. My opposition to assisted dying is entirely grounded in the kind of autonomy that you seem to think you are holding up. You believe bureaucrats from failing Western democracies are incentivized to be benevolent actors here? When the piggy bank is finally proved to be empty, the levers that will be pulled will all be couched in empathetic and quasi-moralistic tones but it will be dystopian to the core.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

Who are these people who actually support, not merely tolerate, people living in horrific pain? I’ve yet to meet one, but I suppose there are some sadists out there who would. A caricature of the moral and compassionate case against euthanasia.

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

“Support”, “tolerate”. In practice, it amounts to the same thing.
Behind all this opposition, there is all too frequently (though I’ll accept not in all cases) a desire to restrict the right of others to freely take decisions about their own future. As a matter of principle, I’m opposed to one person telling another what they may or may not do when it doesn’t directly affect them.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I would say that support and tolerate are not the same thing, but even if they were, neither applies in the sense that Lesley was suggesting.
As to your matter of principle, don’t all laws restrict what you may or may not do? It’s not a question of whether or not it directly affects you, more to do with what’s conducive to the common good.
However, I still think there’s something to be said for ‘thou shalt not kill but need not strive officiously to keep alive’.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 months ago

Except that they don’t. The use of emotive suffering etc by the pro euthanasia lobby doesn’t reflect the reality of modern palliative care.
I’ve seen it with both my parents & when the time came they were treated with dignity & the sensitive use of drugs meant they were pain free at the end.

Mark Cook
Mark Cook
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

A thoughtful piece by KS. I totally agree Hugh, my experience of modern palliative care and its drug regime was the same. It was as pain free and dignified as we could have hoped for.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Laugh out loud. If you think that palliative care completely removes pain and suffering then you live in a delusion.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 months ago

Nevertheless if assisted death is to be a genuine uncoerced choice then there has to be the most viable alternative possible for the greatest number.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
2 months ago

Parris’s article caused some discussion in my household. My 89 year old father, a former NHS trust chair, was firmly in favour of Parris’s position.
I disagreed. My own position is somewhat ambivalent. Just over two years ago my partner died of cancer. A year ago the government held its ‘consultation’ on assisted dying. I wrote this short piece at the time, and I think I still mostly agree with it: ‘An Easy Way Out?
I have little doubt that, assuming I live another 15 years, the option to end my own life will be offered to me by beancounter-driven healthcare professionals, and, more likely than not, I deem, pressure will be brought on me to take that option.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago

Fantastic piece. Thanks KS.
It’s no coincidence that celebrities are well represented in the worldwide campaigns to legalise the State killing of vulnerable human beings. Really, the desire to control your own death is just another expression of the Default Narcissism that was incubated in the toxic sociopathic laboratories of TV, film and popular music over the last half century; which has (inevitably) been transmitted to wider society by the Typhoid Marys of the internet, smart phones and social media; and which is now infecting the entire public realm. It’s less a desire to control your own death than it is an existential terror of not being able to control your own life as completely as you’d like. More plainly, of ever having to ‘depend’ on other human beings. If there’s one thing that defines the contrived, relentlessly ‘self-curated’ world of Celebrity, it’s the lifelong attempt to barricade yourself from any need of help of other people – especially the great unwashed beyond the red velvet VIP rope. To wipe your bum, say. Or feed you, or help you walk. To concede that one day you just might need another person’s help to maintain ‘a dignified life’ is…of course, to remind yourself that, since at the moment you are doing just fine, maybe you really should be doing a lot less to look after yourself and your interests, and a whoile lot more to help another person, who needs it – as you might one day – to live a dignified life today.
Oh dear me, no narcissist – especially a celebrity one – wants to contemplate that awkward reality. When advocates of ‘dying with dignity’ talk about wanting to avoid the ‘undignified’ fate of a terminal, deteriorative condition, what they are really betraying is how narrowly (and, usually, squeamishly) they define a ‘dignified’ life, and b) their strong aversion to helping others live a dignified life. It’s a profoundly anti-John Donne stance: I am – at least I want to be – an island. Because if I live on an island…well, at least I won’t have to clean up mum’s vomit and wipe dad’s bum as they lose their marbles.
Alas, narcissists all. Donne’s poem wasn’t a cherry-pickable one. His line about none of us being an island, separate from society, isn’t just about the succour we can get from the fellowship of Man, ‘spesh when we are vulnerable. It’s also equally about the obligations we have to society, so that society can be in a fit state to provide that succour (to the vulnerable) when needed. One of the key obligations we have as individuals to Society, to pitch in on the job of keeping it in a good fit state to look after the vulnerable…is to not explicitly sanction society’s killing of human beings. That’s an existential default that we have no right and no choice, collectively, to surrender. Not so long as there remains one single human being who opposes VAD. Lest we cut that person off the continent.
Not doing that demands each of us understand that, collectively and pluralistically, life in our society is not all about what you happen to want. Not even if all you want to do is die. The common argument for VAD – (in Australia, where it’s triumphed in most jurisdictions, it’s formally Voluntary Assisted Dying) – is that the decision to kill yourself must be allowed, medically, civically and legally, to become a purely ‘personal’ matter (within medical safeguard constraints). The exercise of a transactional individual ‘freedom to choose’. Thus, one that can’t have any impact on anyone else’s moral or practical being. It’s ‘no-one else’s business’. But this argument is 100% a*se-about. In fact as things stand killing yourself is the ‘personal choice’; very much ‘no-one else’s business’. Top yourself, go right ahead. Yay, it is indeed all on you. Good for you, you societally-unencumbered Clint Eastwood lone rider hero, you.
What is ‘sticking your nose into others’ moral business’ is the VAD advocates’ demand that that choice be made ‘legal’, a great big needy plea for Big Mummy State to step in and spread the moral peril around us all; to hold your poor anxious little handy-wandy while you engage in your Bwave Act of Self-Negation. If big tough-talkin’ island-dweller Matthew Parris is so keen on ending his miserably undignified existence the second he can’t butter his own marmalade crumpets, why on earth does he need my permision, my civic stamp of approval to do it? Or anyone else’s? Or indeed the State’s? Talk about a wuss. Go and kill yourself like a man, mate: wander off into the arctic snows stoically and freeze to death quietly. You big sooky attention-seeker.
Why does it matter? Why must we oppose VAD? It’s not primarily for the usually cited reasons, which are mostly secondary, incidental, and of wildly varying validity, including occasionally hysterical. No, not because I think life is ‘sacred’, or Divine; no, not because ‘there is nobility and truth’ in suffering; no, not because I fear a dystopian future of production-line slaughterhouses for the poor/feeble old/Trump supporters, or some Solulent Green $$ conspiracies, etc.
I oppose VAD because I’ve been an aged, disability and to a lesser extent palliative carer for the best part of two decades, and the casual, contemporary advent of VAD has been one of the most damaging, sinister and cruel regressions of my lifetime in the hitherto inclusive aspiration we as a progressive society – Donne’s continent of Humanity – decided post-Enlightenment to adopt towards those whose lives are no less dignified than ours, but just…in a different physical way. It’s all very well to proclaim, as a ventilated C3 quadriplegic or a late-stage MS or MND et al sufferer, that ‘My life is not worth living any more, I want to die.’ Understandable enough. As Christopher Reeves discovered, living with that kind of physical afflcition can be a living nightmare. But it is absolutely another thing for us, as a Society – the State – to effectively respond to such individual expressions of anguish by, effectively, universalizing and civically ratifying them. By saying say: Good god, you poor undignifed chap, you’re dead right. Your miserable life IS not worth living. Why, somebody has to physically push the poo out of your bowels every day, Chris! Icky icky poo! Yes, we as a Society totally agree that you should be allowed to die.
The message that sends – don’t pretend that’s not the one we are sending with VAD, please – in a million subtle and not so subtle ways, to those living with the same awful afflictions as those who demand VAD…but who do not want to die, but to live…is something I have seen in those I work with quite often. It’s a message our disabled get bombarded with by able society every day, anyway; in waving VAD about, we as a society can come close to breaking the last remnants of the steely, bloody-minded act of pure Human will it can take, every day, to keep believing that…no, you’re wrong, my life IS dignified. My life IS worth living.
I won’t go to the barricades over VAD. Of course our transactionalist, narcissistic age will adopt it pretty much everywhere. And I won’t ever stop anyone who’s had enough of the struggle and wants to die, either. In fact I helped both my mum and my dad die, effectively via VAD…the very standard morphine pack and ‘nil fluids’. (We don’t seem to be mature enough anymore to juggle the tried and true moral and ethical duality of the last few thousands years – publicly oppose VAD as a necessary Hippocratic ideal but, in quiet practice, deploy compassion and tender guile in Hippocratic practise. I guess everyone needs a ’cause’ now; everyone is a ‘literalist’.
For those of you who support VAD, let me prpose this: instead of spending whatever spare you time and energy you have helping someone who does not live a dignified life to end it..why not try helping them live a dignified life?
Sorry for the length and less-than-stellar style. Am – honestly – late for a shift!

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

So, to sum up your position, if your dog is ancient and decrepit, you can take it to the vet for a “green needle”, but if you yourself should be in that position, you have to find your own way of ending your life, because the State is too precious to actually allow its citizens a dignified death?

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The State isn’t your mummy, mate. Or your personal valet, alert to your every bratty want and wish. You don’t need its ‘permission’ to kill yourself, and unless you’re totally thick, it’s actually not terribly hard to do it with dignity. Get to a certain point and your GP will stick a morphine pack in you, and you can stop drinking.

‘Precious’ State? Martin, the State is an abstract idea. Humans are the only things that get ‘precious’. In my experience, one of the fastest ways to provoke it is to suggest to a VAD advocate they might consider becoming a disability carer, as the most practical and immediate way of helping folks ‘die with dignity’.

As I said I wont’t mount the barricade on this. We VAD opponents have already lost this battle, as Stock notes. The sky won’t fall in. But / just like ‘trans rights’ trumping women’s rights, its a deeply anti-Enlightenment regression, not a ‘progressive’ advance. So long as we understand that.

Best regards.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

It isn’t in fact easy to kill yourself painlessly. Get to the GP? That’s an unlikely possibility in itself!

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Fair point re: GP!

I disagree though about the ease of suicide. In fact I think the shrillest VAD advocates often betray a deep anxiety about suicide/assisted dying. For a gang that insists on framing death as a controllable biological transaction from a state of bodily being, to a state of bodily null, there does usually seem to be an awful lot of squeamish fussing and fiddling over a bodily death that appears to need to be ‘pretty’ and ‘unmessy’ and…well, that elastic word ‘dignified’ again. There’s an extra awful lot of anxiety about loved ones. Narcissism, again. I’d argue that the actual decision that you’d prefer to be dead than enjoy the salving company of your loved ones is a pretty thorough FU that your mere magnanimous generosity in getting the State to ensure you left them a palatable corpse isn’t going to outweigh easily. Perhaps an unusual number of VAD advocates are a-holes who will be doing the world a favour by leaving it!

Do forgive the cheap shot, Andrew: we’ve lost this debate. Allow us our consoling…we’ll, dignities!
I guess the point of Humanity, to me anyway, and especially the point of human interaction, is that we (should aspire to) make – by force of Human love and will and majesty – everything that is human, by definition, dignified. Every Human thing. No matter how traumatic, physically repulsive, shocking, painful or terrifying.

Best regards.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Helium gas.,you’ll go out like a light instantly.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

Hey, I don’t have a problem. I own guns, and if I don’t qualify for VAD, when the day comes, one of them will go “bang” while pointed in the right direction. I just feel sorry for whoever has to find me, and scrub my brains off the ceiling. I live in Australia, and here, it is true to say that VAD opponents have already lost. However, I am aware that this publication has international readership.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yours is the truly autonomous, independent approach to VsAD*. Its main and great advantage is that it truly is none of my, or Society’s, moral business. It selflessly protects the abstract principle of our collective obligation and mutual need to preserve life and thus the practical vulnerability of those who do not wish to die, which is most of us, most of our lives.
In wishing you well – and hoping it never comes to that for you, obviously – may I simply exhort, in the spirit of our compatriot: ‘Shoot straight – don’t make a mess of it, you b*****d.’
Voluntary self-assisted dying.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

I thought you were late for work?

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Um…I don’t do care shifts 24-7 Clare.
Would you like to check my credentials? Is that what you were insinuating? That maybe I’m making things up for expedient discursive purposes?
Here you go. This is me.
https://app.mable.com.au/profile/worker/463527
You might have to set up a ‘seeking support worker’ profile to get access to read my ‘support worker’ profile.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

edited redundant

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

How many times in this thread do you think you’ll need to cast that tacky insinuation, requiring me to direct you to my Support Worker Hub profile page, Clare?
Just so I can get an idea of how many times I’ll need to return to this dormant thread.
https://app.mable.com.au/profile/worker/463527

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Your argument is flawed, simply because humans aren’t dogs.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

More’s the pity.:-

“I am Diogenes the Dog. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy and bite scoundrels.” *

(*Diogenes of Sinope. 412/404- 323BC, or 341/349 – 430 AUC.)

Úna Jansen
Úna Jansen
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

I think his point is that, in some cases, we treat our dogs with more dignity at the end than we do our parents.

Martin M
Martin M
2 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Indeed. The law proscribes us from being cruel to dogs.

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Perfectly captured.
People are quite happy to “put to sleep” their dogs and see racehorses despatched when injured (without any apparent attempt to treat them). Or even kill animals for “fun”.
All this should be nothing to do with the State. It should be left to individual choice. Non-criminal acts should not be criminalised by the State – hasn’t the current “hate crime” fiasco in Scotland taught us anything ?
I’m fairly certain that there’s a practical way to allow people in terminal pain to die at a time of their choosing without all the dire consequences being predicted or any sort of coercion. But only if we leave the State out of it (since it currently breaks everything it touches). And Matthew Parris.
The strapline to this article implies that emotive arguments have won. I find most of the emotive arguments coming from those who oppose any change and seek to wish to force their personal beliefs on others and make their decisions for them.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Lest we forget, odious as the Sc*tch Hate Crime Act is, its origins can very regrettably be traced back to the 1986 Public Order Act, enacted by the late Lady Thatcher.
Although primarily directed against recalcitrant miners they were plenty of other grotesque provisions‘ ‘hidden’ within the Act, as we have recently seen.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Doesn’t life in a civilized society ‘force’ a countless number of personal beliefs upon us daily? Do we not call that Law?
The notion that this particular law is too confining is just silly. The killing of another is murder, even if both parties consent to the murder. Nothing emotive about that. Would we find it equally restrictive when the law tells us that Incest continues to be a crime, EVEN IF, both father and daughter have embraced it?
As for suicide…I may be unaware, but as far as I know no one has ever been prosecuted, convicted, and jailed because they tried…and failed…to off themselves. Morally, certainly, we would discourage it. We call suicide a cardinal sin…an offense against God, or Buddha, or Allah, et al. But our social and cultural concern and focus is to prevent it and save people from their attempt at it. We try to help them understand that in fact their life has worth & dignity…that they are loved and valued far more alive than dead.
Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn’t. And if the individual is determined enough, the best society can achieve is delay. But if are are truly concerned with ‘peoples’ beliefs being forced upon us’ then asking society to accept, enable, and fund the ‘requested’ killing of the aged, the decrepit, the diseased, and the depressed (at their request) would seem to an extreme example of same, wouldn’t it?

Aloysius
Aloysius
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

It’s almost like humans are not just dogs…

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The ‘suicide is illegal’ stance provided a diplomatic way out of a sticky situation for the State. After all, it could only punish your failure, an embarrassment for the both of you. Then it would have liked perhaps to look as severly upon your crime as the Church and condemned you to death for it. Now it’s in another bind but must feel bullied into being kind. It won’t like that and will respond as mercifully as you wish by not giving a ….

Úna Jansen
Úna Jansen
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Exactly Martin, and you put the family members who assist you into danger of being accused of murder. I wonder how many of the people here who are so rabidly against voluntary euthanasia have actually watched a loved one die of a painful, terminal disease.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Úna Jansen

How many of us who oppose the State enabled, taxpayer funded socially blessed murder of the diseased, ancient, and decrepit have actually watched a love one die of a terminal condition?
Eventually most of us will….at least until we’re the ones dying of that terminal condition and someone else is watching us, holding our hands, we hope, and telling us they love us.
Death is part of life. And being with a loved one who is dying is a painfully fundamental part of that life
God save us from its safe and easily palatable sanitization as yet one more appointment on my iPhone’s calendar (perhaps with appropriate sad face emoticon?).

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Úna Jansen

Exactly.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

This is a diatribe, albeit a well argued one. But in fact you actually practised taking another’s life entirely against the dominant Christian ethic of the past 1500 years. By the not notably humane method of their dying of thirst. What moral difference at all does the precise method of the killing make? Surely there is a contradiction there.

Most mothers and fathers don’t actually want their children to clean up their vomit or wipe their bums!

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

No, most mums and dads will SAY they don’t want that…right up to the point where they do actually need ‘someone’ to wipe their bums. And in my experience – of my own parents deaths and others’ – is that most do prefer to be cared for by loved ones. That’s where the ‘unbearable’ and ‘undignified’ can most commonly be made ‘bearable and ‘dignified’. Even beautiful. Not exclusively but very commonly.

Re: both my mum and dad. What bollocks. They both asked for sustained pain relief. They both declined to take fluids. Mum’s decline and death was as beautiful as any I’ve attended. Was it assisted dying? Sure. Was it State-approved assisted suicide? Nope.

What is often notable about VAD advocates is your inability to live with ambiguity and ‘unspoken’ pragmatic solutions to moral dilemmas. The medical and care communities have been ‘helping people to die’ for ten thousand years. Why do you suddenly insist it be codified, literalised, transactionalised? It is, again, eerily similar to the contrived insistence by the trans lobby that it’s not enough anymore for us as a society to ‘quietly accept’ people who prefer to live their lives unfussily as an opposite gender type, as we Humans have done for eons; nope, we must have a great big contrived public policy absolutist fight about gender nomenclature, gender ‘rights’ as ‘an oppressed cohort’, there must be a moral absolute right and wrong and an umpire’s decision if a winner made by the State.

It’s just narcissism. Eight billion self-absorbed self-important ‘Me’s, all of us equally determined to be king, cabinet, captain and celebrity of our own little hero narrative.

Go and become a disability carer. Best cure for the premier ill of our age, ever. Again, warm regards. i appreciate your intelligent engagement a lot.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

You’re late for work.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

So you keep saying, Ms Mefinx-You-Protest-Too-Much-‘Progressive’.
There you go, go and ratify my creds to your satisfaction, you self-righteously petty lady.
https://app.mable.com.au/profile/worker/463527

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

edit redundant

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I always told my mother, when she would express that sentiment, that she once cleaned up my vomit and dirty diapers. And I ended up doing that (sans vomit) for her. Many parents say that they don’t want to be a burden to their children, which is commendable. But I think it helps to remind folks that their children were once a burden for them. And to be thankful that they had them! (I chose to have none…)

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

This was a great comment, really!
Thank you

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago

Thanks VZ. See, this is what I like about UnHerd: plurality!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

What a load of rubbish.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Thanks CK. See, this is what I like about UnHerd: plurality!

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

And that’s what I respect in people: consistency.
—-
🙂 and 😉 from me

William Brand
William Brand
2 months ago

In Germany the holocaust was first sold as mercy. Soon it became the involuntary disposal of the unwonted and them mass execution of Jews. Soon the suicide movement will replace old folks homes and become mandatory for the useless mouths of the poor.

sal b dyer
sal b dyer
2 months ago

Having worked in aged and palliative care for many years, physical pain and decline doesn’t worry me. There’s usually enough of an informed and intelligent dialogue between sufferer, family, medical staff and carers to ease things. Dementia is a whole other ball game, though. I don’t think many people have seen the reality of angst ridden, confused, incontinent, sometimes aggressive and violent, elderly residents wandering around and around a locked ward all day, often for years. With statins, antihypertensives, and antidiabetic medications these people can be preserved in relative physical health for a long time. Visitors to these places are rare, family members make a few token visits a year then don’t bother because they aren’t recognised. [Although they are quick to blame the institution when their “loved ones” catch Covid]. It often seems it would be a living hell. I usually leave my ward rounds to aged care wondering how to word my Advanced Health Directive so that my own family would put me on the Morphine pump the day after the diagnosis.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Losing my dad to dementia while his body is still here, struggling in much the way you described, has absolutely convinced me that denying people the option to end their lives before they deteriorate in this way is really quite cruel. It is putting your belief in what is kind before the reality of what people will have to suffer, in order for you to feel like you are a good person who values human life (wilfully blind to the reality of the kind of lives you would like to force people to endure, for the sake of telling yourself that story).

sal b dyer
sal b dyer
2 months ago

Sorry to hear about your Dad. It must be ghastly watching a loved one become a completely different, unrecognisable person with little capacity for meaningful interaction. It really is a living death. The problem comes with informed consent. Neurologically, the first cognitive processes to deteriorate are the higher functions- insight, judgement, memory etc. Most dementia patients deny that they have a problem and blame others around them for their own lapses. They are not capable of the complex decisions needed to consent to ending their own lives. Even with prior consent I can see huge problems. Often the best we can do is withdraw all medical treatment and hope that nature takes its course via strokes, heart attacks etc. The irony is that medicine has advanced to treat many of these what we call “macro-vascular” conditions, so more people are living into old age with its risk of “micro-vascular” conditions such as Dementia.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Thank you, and I understand that all too well. My dad quite often made a point to say, having seen his own mother deteriorate in much the same way, that he would rather die than end up like that. But, much as you said – the ability to decide to do so kind of just gradually slipped away. I just hope for myself, if ever in that situation – I admit what’s happening early enough that a more dignified end remains an option for me. Other than brutal, tortuous murder, I really can’t imagine a worse way to go. And I do wonder if even such a murder might, in a way, still be less tortuous. At least it wouldn’t go on for years.

J Hop
J Hop
2 months ago

If it’s any consolation, its not always horrific. My grandmother died of dementia and for years she was like a child. Wore a diaper, finger painted, watched cartoons, loved to pet the dog for hours, etc. Pretty happy actually, although occationally she would cry for no apparent reason, or for any reason she could convey at least. So she had some bad days like all of us, but most of the time she was quite happy. When things took a turn for the worse, we put her in hospice and all life extending care and medications were removed and she was given opiates. She died quietly surrounded by family within weeks.
Not the ideal end of life scenario, but hardly a nightmare. I’m not denying it can be quite bad as the heartbreaking accounts here make that clear, just wanted to clarify it’s not a certain thing.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
2 months ago
Reply to  J Hop

I am aware, having an uncle with something more akin to this less horrific version of dementia. It’s still not great. And in any case, whether it’s this form of dementia, a more severe one, cancer, or another serious ailment, I believe in having the option available to myself and anyone else who wants it, to choose a more humane and less painful exit before the situation deteriorates.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

We are kinder to our pets.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago

The truth is, all situations deteriorate. It is a human inevitability.
So are you truly arguing that having the option to take advantage of State-Assisted-Suicide should be available to any one…at any time…for any reason, if they want it?
And if you’re only arguing for making that option available if one is, like, really, really sick…why should that be a hurdle we have to clear? Isn’t the imposition of that ‘qualification’ putting your beliefs ahead of those who, at the age of 23, in perfect health, want to end it all?
The point being, of course, that the slope is not just slippery, it’s a very rapid plummet from euthanasia when you’re terminally ill….to euthanasia when you painfully ill (but not terminal)…to euthanasia when you’re really clinically depressed….to euthanasia when you want it. After all, who are we to think that our understanding of what your life is like is superior to your own.
Is that truly the world you wish to inhabit?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

Murder?!

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
2 months ago

I half jokingly have instructed my loved ones to put a pillow over my face if I go doolally. Actually I’m not joking but of course I don’t want them prosecuted.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

You look for reasons to ignore the opportunities to do this while of sound mind and don’t look for a process to obviate this.
There are detailed living wills which state what intervention a person would like. I have one but u fortunately in South Africa (backward country), there is no assisted dying as such – though morphine is sometimes used by some still caring people. You just have to luck it to find one of these medics.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

My mother in her 90s had slid into mid-level dementia. I took care of her in her home the last 8 months of her life. Except for high blood pressure she was quite healthy. However she was VERY reisistent to taking meds (didn’t like being messed with by visiting medical people all the time) so we decided to take her off the BP meds. Three months later she had a major stroke (that’s when we “lost” her); though she was on a wait list for nursing home, she died at home a couple months after the stroke. It was all very hard, we took care of her like taking care of a baby. However, all in all things went exactly as I’d hoped and prayed. We were so thankful that she never had to go to a home and to give up her doggy, who I now have.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

You took her off BP meds, how strange.

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
2 months ago

Is it your compassion for the person changed by dementia that you dislike, or your own fear of being like that yourself? If it’s the latter, you are putting your own needs first, and not adjusting compassionately to change. You can’t live, or die for someone else.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 months ago

Are they suffering or are we the onlookers the suffering?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Just as, are the family selfish for wanting their loved one to pass with assistance so they don’t have to visit or care? Or are the selfish ones, those who want to keep them alive regardless of the quality of life.
There is no right or wrong and no moral high ground to be held by either side of this argument. Both sides are equally emotive as the subject revolves around people’s loved ones.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

They may be family but not necessarily “loved ones”. What if your parents were abusive and you end up having to care for them, which I suspect is often the case?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

A great deal end up in residential care being cared for by people who rarely do. Their Family are too busy, too heartbroken or (in some occasions as you suggest) too apathetic to look after them themselves. they are sat in front of a window or tv and their days become a routine of tea and toilet. I suppose if they don’t know any different it doesn’t really matter though. If the carer is abusive, well that’s ok too because they’re unlikely to remember. I wish more families would care for their loved ones because maybe if you knew your kids would be looking after you in your twilight years, you might actually be a better parent.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

Exactly.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago

But isn’t euthanasia exactly that….putting your belief that an assisted suicide is better before the reality that even though Mom may no longer recognize us, she still enjoys life, even if she is not what she once was?
Simply because we are personally horrified at the thought that we may lose ourselves in the fog of dementia….that does not mean that those living within that fog are equally horrified.
We too easily assume that our pain and sadness at the loss of the individual the Other used to be is equally shared by them. In many cases, it’s not.
But even beyond that, given the suicidal wish… what truly is sufficient for a society to embrace the act of state-enabled murder for those who desire it?
Currently, in the Netherlands, Zoraya ter Beek, who is perfectly healthy but ‘terminally’ depressed, has been approved for state-assisted euthanasia. Is that not the logical end-point for the pro-death-on-demand argument?
If I so wish it, why are my wishes to end my own life (with dignity and without pain and without undue hardship for my family) subject to any sort of arbitrary physician/psychologist review & approval?
Should we not be equally convinced by people’s struggles (and doesn’t everyone struggle?), that denying those struggling people the option to end their lives (nicely!) is, as you say, ‘really quite cruel’?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

The silver lining, in my eyes, when I lost my mother to cancer, was that at least she never suffered the indignity of dementia. Her father succumbed to dementia and it was heartbreaking.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

When my favourite grandmother was dying of cancer, I joked to her that at least she knew for sure that she wouldn’t get dementia now, as I knew she had been quite worried about it (having seen what happened to my other grandmother). She laughed, and we both knew it was absolutely better that at least she was still able to joke and laugh and be herself like that, right up until the end.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
2 months ago

My mom had mid level dementia for quite some time, and we had some very good times, as well as hard ones. We did joke and laugh a lot. Her stroke took her into I supposed very advanced dementia, and she passed 2 months later.

J Hop
J Hop
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Excuse my ignorance on this subject, but I thought the point of hospice or pallitive care was not to do anything to artificially extend life. My grandmother died of dementia, and once she had deteriorated to the point she had no quality of life, we put her in hospice and all medications other than opiates were removed. She had a rather pleasant death surrounded by family mere weeks later, not years. Why would you keep a terminally ill person with poor quality of life on statins, insulin, hypertention medications and such? Doesn’t that go against the point of hospice, which is to preseve comfort and dignity but not to attempt to exend life any longer?

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Certainly, from OUR perspective, an existence in which we’ve lost the most of ourselves to Dementia would be terrible. Who would deny that?
But simply because, we, in our current condition can see and appreciate the severity of the decline when it impacts another, that is not what we would understand or appreciate if we were the one’s in the midst of that decline.
I’ve heard the occasional, cruelly-indifferent & blindly unaware adolescent make the same specious argument about a crippling illness or accident: ‘Oh Man, how horrible that would be; I’d rather be dead than spend my days in a wheelchair….or blind…or deaf…or fill-in-the-blank.” But they don’t know any better.
It’s estimated that approximately 1B people in the world today are suffering some form of disability. And yet, remarkably, they all still go on.
Our own, personal, distaste for the disabled condition (especially those which rob us of our selves) is completely understandable. If given a choice who would choose any of those world-altering challenges. Life is hard enough as it is.
But we’re not given that choice.
And though we may see and suffer, vicariously, the inabilities which bind those 1B victims… and though we may mourn the life they no longer have….still, they have life. And that life can be happy (albeit a happiness which is defined differently within a different world and set of circumstances).
My mother did not know me, in the last years of her life, but she loved dogs and she loved ice cream, and awoke with a smile from her warm afternoon naps.
Let us not be so quick to embrace Death…when we still have an opportunity (albeit a significantly reshaped opportunity) to embrace Life.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
2 months ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Yes, my friend’s mum is exactly like that and sometimes violent. My friend has moved to another country and never sees her mum who doesn’t recognise her anyway.
The poor women is being kept alive but has no life. I don’t want that.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago

The fundamental point in the AD debate must be around our most core social values of what is the purpose of life.
Do we live solely as hedonists? In this case, it is conceivable that a society that would block a young healthy person from suicide (padded asylum…) would at the same time administer a death serum to an older person with late stage cancer. Why? Because society makes a valuation of the residual life and decides that in the former case, the life remaining is ‘valuable’, while in the latter case, it is not.
And to do so, society must have some idea of what constitutes ‘life value’. Formally, in religious societies, the purpose of life was to live a ‘good’ life, to prepare oneself for the afterlife. Now, in a hedonistic society, the purpose is to live a ‘happy’ life, to have ‘fun’ or seek ‘pleasure’.
So the core question around AD is whether we see life’s purpose as hedonistic or ascetic. The comments section of this excellent UnHerd article appears well divided on this point, and I that reflects society at large.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Life has no purpose. You make of it what you will.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago

I can only speak on this matter from personal experience.

Over the last decade I have watched dementia destroy my mother. Complete physical and mental deterioration to the point where she cannot communicate except in occasional unintelligible outbursts. She cannot move herself, feed herself, nor does she exhibit control over any bodily function except breathing and swallowing.

No-one can say for sure what mental anguish and physical pain she is in. But her last intelligible communication was years ago and by that point was about nothing but distress at what was happening to her.

So she lies gradually dying in a bed in a care home, kept clean and alive by efficient staff. So thin now that her BMI is below what the textbooks say is normally required for a human body to be viable.

She can no longer make a choice and it would not be right to make that choice for her. But having witnessed how this terrible illness has destroyed her, if it ever comes for me I will not wait until its too late. Whether here in the UK or elsewhere, I will end matters on my own terms while I still have wits enough to choose.

Aloysius
Aloysius
2 months ago

I’m so sorry you have had to experience that, it is truly awful. In the interest of clarifying the language used to better understand subject matter, however, I would like to question what it is you hope to, if in that situation, “choose”. To put it bluntly, in your estimation a life in such a state is not worth living. In most cases, we recognise that someone’s life is precious and if they express the wish to commit suicide we tell them that it is worth living and they have value by virtue of their existence, not on some instrumental basis. Here though, what you are saying is that isn’t always the case. On this view, if someone has dementia, their value as a human becomes a function of their perception – if they want to cherish their life of course we must act as though it has the same dignity as that of healthy people, but if they don’t we shouldn’t stop them. Yet their perception might soon come to be seen as mistaken, especially if the cost of being taken care of begins to mount. Now that the value of a human life is a prudential judgement, why not factor in the monetary costs.

And yet if morality is to mean anything at all, one’s moral worth can’t possibly be determined by a temporary subjective state of mind. Nobody wants to lose total control and deteriorate in the awful way you describe, but even at our most healthy we are often dependent on others, and only one accident or disease away from losing the autonomy we do have. Trying to free oneself from the strictures of reality is a project doomed to failure, and I hope that instead you will see that, just as that of a depressed teenager with suicidal thoughts, your life is and will always be, by virtue of its existence, infinitely precious in and of itself, and should be treated as such.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
2 months ago
Reply to  Aloysius

“Yet their perception might soon come to be seen as mistaken…”
So on the one hand, you wish society to respect the value of human life and agency, then on the other wish to deny agency to those at the end of their lives. We’re not talking here about depressed teenagers, and trying to obfuscate the issue with ‘slippery slope’ arguments denies those in awful terminal agony the right to a dignified end of life. I’m absolutely certain you’d be begging for someone to assist you to die in such circumstances, and your sophistication would disappear along with control of your bodily functions.

Aloysius
Aloysius
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Not exactly, I do want society to respect the inherent value of every human life, and for most of us an important and good part of that life is exercising our agency, but our value doesn’t depend on it. Perhaps a disabled person who needs help to perform everyday functions isn’t as much of an autonomous free agent as most, but that doesn’t make their life any less valuable. I’m not making a slippery slope argument, but rather saying that if you take your ideas to their logical conclusions you will end in a particular state – that you yourself seem to find that end state unpalatable ought to be indicative.

The depressed teenager was not brought up to say that they too would soon have access to euthanasia, but rather that the grounds to which we appeal to stop them making a terrible decision also apply in other situations.

Though I hope this isn’t the case, perhaps you are right that were I faced with such a situation I would, out of desperation, fail to live up to the ideals and morals I outlined, but I also hope that those around me and society at large would, with a clearer head, not make the same mistake. There is nothing dignified about suicide – assisted or not.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Aloysius

That’s your opinion and again you can only speak for yourself.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Exactly.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

❝Palliative sedation constitutes administering drugs to render the patient unconscious at the end of life. It is considered part of a normal medical procedure: it does not constitute termination of life because the drugs administered are not the cause of death. The aim is to alleviate suffering at the end of life, specifically unbearable pain, that can no longer be relieved in any other way.❞ To relieve pain there is no need to resort to euthanasia.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Heck, for that matter, why deny them ‘agency’ in the middle of their life or even in the teenaged beginning of same, if at any particular point, they — with fully agency — believe that endling life is preferable to continuing it?
Why should I have to have a terminal condition (as judged by someone who knows nothing of me) in order to qualify for assisted suicide?
Why would you argue that agony must be a qualifier for euthanasia? That sounds excessively cruel doesn’t it?

Rebecca Chandler-Wilde
Rebecca Chandler-Wilde
2 months ago
Reply to  Aloysius

With respect, this comes up against the hard reality of a death from dementia. We are not saying that someone else’s life is not worth living, that’s not for me to say, we’re saying that we don’t want to endure such a life ourselves and should be able to have the choice not to have to

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

Exactly.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago
Reply to  Aloysius

I’m not entirely sure I follow your reasoning, but I will try to respond to your question.
The choice I want is to avoid the pain, suffering, and indignity of a long drawn out death, especially one where I am rendered mentally incapable. I would also want to avoid the horrible price which such illnesses can take on those around them. I don’t want my wife and children to have the years of stress and worry which my father and, particularly, my sister who feels more guilt and helplessness than I do (as is so often still the way), have endured.
Having seen what advanced dementia does, I can honestly say that I do not put any value on the life I would have in those circumstances. Much better to say goodbye to my family, friends and dogs while I still recognise their faces and have the agency to chose. That would be of more value to me.
I understand that for a variety of reasons other people feel differently and that’s fine. I’m not expecting to make the choice for them, just for me.

Aloysius
Aloysius
2 months ago

Sorry about my lack of clarity, and thank you for the thoughtful response. I suppose the point I was trying to make was that our society until now has had a different conception of the value of human life than that you outline. Namely, the idea of human rights is that by virtue of our existence as humans we possess a certain dignity that warrants legal protection. This protection is not contingent on our mental or physical capacities, which is why though some people are disabled, even severely so, they are still entitled to the same legal protections we all enjoy, and their life is still infinitely valuable.
On the other hand, you propose that a life with dementia is no longer valuable (for you), because of the things you are not able to do, so that the value of a human life becomes dependent on that human’s capacities and not intrinsic to their humanity.
You say this is just about having a choice in that situation, not forcing others to do anything, but what you are advocating for is a legal change that would indeed be an imposition. If a teenager tragically attempted to commit suicide, the state would be able to forcibly section them so that they did not pose a danger to themselves and that they might be able to get the psychological help they need. So no matter how much they as a free agent might want it, we say that they have no right to end their life or to have it ended. Yet in the case of dementia you ask for just such a right, so that because of their difference in capacity, the law would then be offering a legal protection to young people it would not offer to the elderly, infirm, and disabled (is this not discrimination?), and so officially recognising their lives as being worth less. Whether or not anyone then chooses to exercise this supposed right to be killed, it necessarily devalues the lives of those most vulnerable, and so makes a significant imposition on those who think, despite their suffering and diminished capacities, that their lives are worthwhile.
If the law ought to officially recognise the lives of those with dementia as having less value, why stop there? Why not extend this to those with disabilities? Why ought society take on a disproportionate burden to provide them with assistance?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Aloysius

Is anyone here saying the law should officially recognize that the lives of those with dementia have less value?

Aloysius
Aloysius
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

If you want to legalise the killing of those with dementia at their request, but not that of a suicidal but otherwise healthy 30 year old, then that is necessarily wanting the law to of