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The “Right to Die”—a misanthropic green light to defeatism

by | Mar 29, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Brendan O’Neill

We’ve carried a number of stories about ongoing efforts in the House of Commons to change the law on assisted suicide—dubbed by proponents changing the law that “governs compassionate acts to assist another to die at their request”—or, more recently, how to respond to the Director of Public Prosecutions’ policy on prosecuting assisted suicides.

In a press statement the British pro-life organization SPUC reported that on Tuesday night the House of Commons passed unopposed a motion to “welcome” the DPP’s guidance, published in February 2010. SPUC “warned that the DPP’s guidance effectively decriminalises assisted suicide by removing any realistic chance of prosecutions for assisting suicide.” More about that tomorrow.

Prior to the debate, Brendan O’Neill, editor of “spiked,” published a withering attack on the pro-euthanasia mentality in the Daily Telegraph newspaper under the headline, “What sort of misanthrope campaigns for the ‘right to die’”? He asks questions—and provides answers—that do not often appear in this debate.

To be clear, O’Neill is by no means where pro-lifers are at. But his blistering debunking of those who “cleave to [the ‘right to die’] like crazy” is complete and devastating. 

For example, he writes that turning the “right to die” into “a socially decreed, positive act. … would, in effect, give a green light to defeatism, to suicidal thoughts, and that is not something society should ever do.” Ever!

Before he puts this into a larger context, O’Neill unloads:

“What is really happening here is that influential commentators and campaigners are dolling up their own, highly individuated fears for the future as a libertarian issue, turning their hypochondriacal panic about ending up as helpless into a liberal cause, as if fighting for the ‘right to die’ were on a par with earlier generations’ struggle for the right to free speech or protest. They plunder the libertarian language of the past in an attempt to prettify an agenda which is fact depressing and miserable, all about the end of autonomy rather than the meaningful exercise of it.”

This campaign, O’Neill argues convincingly,

“also seems to be implicitly bound up with today’s broader inability to value and celebrate human life. Ours is an era in which newborn babies are referred to as ‘carbon footprints’ and elderly people are looked upon as ‘bed blockers’. We now tend to view human beings as a burden, whether of the environmental or economic variety. It is surely no coincidence that the ‘right to die’ should have become such a celebrated cause at precisely a time when human life came to viewed as a bit of a curse, certainly not an unalloyed good.”

Perhaps most unnerving (but certainly correct) is that O’Neill points to those commentators who are not at all reluctant to couch their wholehearted support for the “right to die” in unashamedly starkly economic terms. Awful lot of commentary about how much patients with dementia “costs the economy.”

O’Neill’s conclusion cuts through all the rhetorical rigmarole:

“So assisted suicide is about resolving problems such as dementia and old age, is it? It is about cutting costs, because having lots of confused elderly people is simply ‘unaffordable’? Here, we can see a very clear link between the old, discredited campaigns for euthanasia and the new, seemingly PC push for the ‘right to die’ – in both cases, it is human life itself which is being devalued, as society is urged to ‘do something’ about sick and disabled people whom we can apparently no longer afford to care for.”

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Categories: Assisted Suicide