NRL News

Lord Falconer bill “would turn doctors into executioners, brutalizing society in the process”

by | Jul 8, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Lord Falconer

Lord Falconer

Anyone who has been a part of our Movement for more than a week knows we often reference what we call “verbal gymnastics” or “verbal engineering.” In the abortion context, we talk of “abortion distortion.”

What we’re confronting is the skewering of the ordinary meaning of words in furtherance of a political agenda. Increasingly these twists and turns and contortions are also a part of the assisted suicide lexicon.

Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times of London. As Parliament approaches the second reading of Lord Falconer’s draft law to legalize assisted suicide, one silver lining is that we are the beneficiary of some extremely insightful columns, such as Phillips’ “Assisted dying transforms doctors into killers.”

According to Phillips

“Attempts over the years to legalise ‘mercy killings’ have all failed. Now opposition is softening, in part because of the way campaigners have manipulated the language in order to reframe the debate.

“In a stroke of propaganda genius, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society renamed itself Dignity in Dying. Instantly, killing was transformed into dying. Killing is bad, but dying is inevitable. And people are frightened of dying in pain or distress.

“The unconscionable was thus turned into the unstoppable. The seedy and sinister became enlightened and compassionate. Anyone who opposed ‘dying with dignity’ was denounced as cruel.”

Melanie Phillips

Melanie Phillips

But, of course, while this linguistic legerdemain softens and confuses

“suicide is not dying and assisted suicide is helping people to kill themselves. ‘Compassion in killing,’ though, doesn’t have quite the same appeal. To put it another way, if you were walking on Beachy Head and encountered a disabled person in a wheelchair imploring you to push them over the edge, would you think it compassionate or callous to do so? The Falconer bill would enable doctors to do the equivalent of pushing the chair off the cliff.”

As the headline to her op-ed suggests, the consequences—not just for the vulnerable and the medical profession but for all of us—are difficult to exaggerate. Phillips writes

“The Falconer bill would turn doctors into executioners, brutalising society in the process. The most vulnerable — the old, the very sick, the unloved — would feel intolerable pressure to end their lives. And some relatives who have financial or psychological interests in their death would likely be manipulating them too.”

Phillips asks if this “right”–the “deliberate procurement of someone’s death”—is (supposedly) allowed only for the terminal ill, “why not for those with chronic or progressive conditions? And if for them, why not for disabled people?” Indeed, all bets are off.

Phillips keenly notes that a once widely-accepted idea–that “the loss of respect for life diminishes the life of every person”–simply

“cuts no ice in our consequentialist, utilitarian culture where there is no intrinsic value to anything. Instead, all is contingent on maximising general happiness, a view as deeply subjective and contestable as it is intolerant of any dissent.”

She then offers deplorable comments both from the president of the Faculty of Public Health (“We need an equivalent of a midwife at the end of life”) and the bishop of Buckingham (“I believe deeply in the sanctity of life — not half-life”) to illustrate how widely the virus has spread—or, to use our language, how readily even people of good will have lapsed into their own verbal engineering.

Phillips asks plaintively, “When a canon of the church propounds such life-denying moral relativism, what hope is there for true empathy with the vulnerable?”

We will continue to write about the Lord Falconer bill up to its second reading July 18 and long afterwards. It would be difficult to minimize the damage passage would inflict on British society.

Categories: Assisted Suicide