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“Reshaping the moral landscape is no alternative to cherishing life and the living”

by | Jul 21, 2014

 

By Dave Andrusko

Lord Falconer

Lord Falconer

In anticipation of July 18, NRL News Today wrote at great length about Lord Falconer’s “assisted dying bill.” Last Friday the bill had its first debate in the House of Lords. We will be writing more about the specifics of the debate later. Suffice it for now to offer two comments in an overview provided by Christian News.

Lord Falconer, of course, insisted his bill was practically laden with safeguards. He told his fellow peers, it was discriminatory that only the rich could go to Switzerland to have their lives ended.

On the other side, the Christian News reported,

“Baroness Campbell, speaking from her wheelchair with a respiratory aid, condemned the Bill which she said was about her and those like her who suffer from degenerative conditions.

“She said: ‘The Bill purports to offer choice – the option of premature death instead of pain, suffering and disempowerment – but it is a false choice. It is that of the burglar who offers to mug you instead.’

“She later added: ‘The Bill has become a runaway train, and the more frightening because of that.’

“Former Conservative cabinet minister, Lord Tebbit said: ‘No one could dispute the good intentions of the Bill, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’”

While many individuals and organizations took positions pro or con that could be readily anticipated (for example, all the disability rights groups opposed Lord Falconer’s bill), others did not. Examples include Desmond

Tutu and Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who have come out in favor.

I am told by my British friends that the editorial against the Assisted Dying Bill penned by The Guardian newspaper was a surprise. I found many of the insights particularly thoughtful.

For instance, “For the benefit of a very specific group of people [ostensibly only those who are “mentally competent adults with a life expectancy of less than six months and a “settled wish’ to die”], it asks that the law modifies what has until now been an absolute principle: the safeguarding of human life.”

The key is the next paragraph because it speaks to why individuals and organizations that might be inclined to support the bill don’t:

“In individual cases, that can seem the overwhelmingly compassionate decision. Nevertheless, and heartbreaking though such cases can be, the absolute principle is too important to jettison.”

Why is the slippery slope so steep? That’s implicit in the editorial. None of the high profile cases that have softened public opinion (Debbie Purdy and the late Tony Nicklinson) would have been affected by Lord Falconer’s bill.

Which, of course, is the precise point that so many opponents make: once the “absolute principle” of “safeguarding human life” is abandoned, there will be a cascade of legal challenges demanding that the “right” be extended to others who not terminally ill, indeed not necessarily ill at all but rather “tired of life.”

The editorial’s conclusion is extremely powerful; you could almost call it prophetic:

“But most of us do not live or die alone. Death is never a completely private matter, as anyone who has experienced the suicide of someone close would testify. Nor is the value of life something that can be assessed independently of family and friends, or of wider society, as the bishop of Worcester argues on these pages today. Making their involvement legal will test all those relationships at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. …“Too many campaigners dismiss it, but better end-of-life care can help. Reshaping the moral landscape is no alternative to cherishing life and the living.”

Categories: Assisted Suicide