Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Why I oppose legalised suicide

Clough's words - Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive officiously to keep alive - recognise the indignity of seeking to prolong human life when the time has come to let it go. That moment when we relinquish our hold on this world must come to each one of us. However, it's not only extreme bad manners to arrive before we're invited but deprives us of the opportunity to reach the ultimate potential of our lives.

Doctors have assisted the death of the body since the first physician donned his toga, the quietus administered when all consciousness had fled and all that remained was the last winding-down of the mechanical organism. A slight touch of the finger on the still-moving pendulum of a clock whose spring would never hold tension again. Such intervention is both ethical and moral.

No Christian however can support the premature termination of a living conscious soul, however debilitated and however hopeless any prospect of recovery. Whilst the senses function, whilst the mind has capacity, however diminished, then the hold on life must be maintained. For who knows, even in that final pain and despair might come the grace of God's insight, might come Divine love, might come some necessary internal packing of the untidy luggage of our lives. Winning tries are scored in the last few seconds of the match; a drive to outfield as the last of the light fades can secure the innings. A team that walked off the pitch five minutes before full time because they thought their position hopeless would earn our derision.

And for those Englishmen who believe in an afterlife, the prospect of arriving on your host's doorstep an hour early to be greeted by a strained smile is surely just too awkward to be contemplated.

11 comments:

davidncl said...

I oppose assisted suicide (and I'm an atheist) because I fear the slippery slope to Dachau.

The origins of the holocaust can be traced to many places, but the actual killing began at the hands of doctors who were acting to ease the suffering of profoundly mentally handicapped patients.

Raedwald said...

Yes, indeed - the T4 programme, which as Gitta Sereny documents was even endorsed by at least one German bishop. Franz Stangl, later commandant of Treblinka and Sobibor, was introduced to the 'legitimacy' of human extermination by T4 and its doctors.

A slippery slope indeed.

Blue Eyes said...

Yes it is the social pressure which is the most dangerous. Older people might well feel obliged to get out of the way in order to "help" their family. Older people are often much more vulnerable to bullying and other forms of pressure than healthy adults. My opposition does not come from any religious beliefs.

jhr said...

Radders, old bean, I hate to take issue with one so eminent, but the quotation from Clough had nothing to do with the indignity of prolonging human life and everything to do with the indifference of Victorian society to the squalor and poverty that lead to millions of Victorians dying prematurely.

And - in case you were wondering - the couplet:

"No graven images may be
Worshipped, except the currency"

shouldn't be taken entirely at face value, either :-)

Nonetheless, keep giving 'em Hell;
I miss your erudition on ybw.

malpas said...

Christians happily blessed the wholesale termination of souls in WW2 etc.
Wait until you are very old and at the mercy of young people for pain relief and comfort. Then you will change your tune. Unless you are wealthy.

Budgie said...

Well said, Raedwald.

malpas said: "Wait until you are very old and at the mercy of young people for pain relief and comfort. Then you will change your tune."

And why should he? Are you "very old and at the mercy of young people"? If not, you have no grounds for your claim that "you will change your tune". Even if you are, you are not Raedwald (or me), so you have no grounds there either.

Like davidnci, I agree that the path of state (official) endorsement of suicide is the path to Dachau, Sobibor et al.

bruno said...

"Whilst the senses function, whilst the mind has capacity, however diminished, then the hold on life must be maintained. For who knows, even in that final pain and despair might come the grace of God's insight, might come Divine love..."

But what about those terminally-ill people who have already found God and are in danger of losing their faith? After all, they are being confronted daily by the problem of evil: why is a compassionate God cutting short my turn on earth? And assuming He has a reason to call me away, why make it drawn out and agonizing? These doubts will be reinforced by awareness that the nature of "Christian" compassion is such that they would rather a fellow soul went through every last second of pain and degradation than allowed them to choose their own options. If we should keep someone alive because they may find God, should we permit those who have found God to die, in case they lose Him?

What will we do then about those non-believers who lie to take advantage of this loophole? Ah, but of course, a true Christian would never choose that path, so we have a perfect Catch-22. It's like dunking witches all over again. Happy days for the good old compassionate Christian church.

What makes you so certain that taking their own life when they have nothing left to give or gain is not God's plan for that person? Perhaps the moment that they drop the pill was the moment He had in mind?

Those of you who would deprive people of control of their lives and their bodies are much closer to the fascist mentality than those who would allow people to make their own choices.

thefatlady said...

Bruno’s points are well made.

However, your opposition to “legalised suicide” is misplaced. It is not illegal to commit suicide.. It is not unlawful to travel to to commit suicide. The only question is whether it should be unlawful for someone to hold your hand in that last adventure.

The religious nature of your argument has no merit. It reeks of intolerance and a determination to make others bend to your view of life, the universe and everything, no matter how much suffering must be inflicted to gain the end result. Perhaps, in another time, you would have supported the Inquisition?

I have seen people die slowly. I have no confidence in palliative care. I have no wish to be the grey, emaciated, suffering semi-corpse in the back bedroom to which the grandchildren are dutifully presented.

I pray that you may never have to make such a decision, but I would defend your right to suffer as much as you like.

I demand the right, as far as possible, to die at a time and in the manner of my choosing with my loved ones around me if they so wish. It is not for you to decide the merits of my last minutes. It is my decision and mine alone.

Raedwald said...

Fatlady - You'll realise I don't advocate imposing my personal view on others. It's my personal belief. Your's is different - that's fine with me. I said 'no Christian would ..' and not 'nobody should'.

The Inquisition? Mais Non. Faith is something inward, not a cause for war. I would lie. Human life is too precious to sacrifice it for being bloody-minded; the Protestant and Catholic martyrs both were fools. I would love my inquisitor, I hope, and agree with every word he said. Whatever I believed.

thefatlady said...

Radders, to be fair, I would not expect it of you to wish to impose your view on others, but that is the effect. There is no winning try to be scored in the last few seconds and the sports analogy is false. To insist that suffering is prolonged until the last possible moment, just in case, is inhuman. I so many ways, I cannot square that with a Christian ethic.

Whilst I don't really wish to personalise this, I am a member of Dignitas. If I need to use their services, and knowing my family, the existence, or otherwise, of legal sanctions will not prevent my family from accompanying me if they so wish.

This is bad law which will be ignored in such circumstances.

You nomally disapprove of central control denying reasonable freedom to individuals. In this case, the State seeks to deny me the ultimate freedom which affects me, and me alone.
Why would you deny me that?

thefatlady said...

One last thought. If you oppose legalised suicide, the corollary is that you wish suicide to be illegal. Regardless of the merits of the case, if that is not imposing your personal view on others, I don't know what is.