Wednesday 22 August 2012

Is there any *right* to have a "pain-free and peaceful death"? (aka wholesale humane murder)


From today's issue of The Independent (the most Leftist of British mainstream newspapers):

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, who lost his High Court battle last week for the legal right to end his life when he chooses with a doctor's help, died today...

Last week following the legal ruling, Mr Nicklinson's wife, Jane - standing by her weeping husband's side - described the decision as "one-sided". She said: "You can see from Tony's reaction he's absolutely heartbroken." They said they intended to appeal against the decision.

Mr Nicklinson's daughter Lauren said last week that the family would keep fighting to allow her father to die "a pain-free and peaceful death". "The alternative is starvation," she said.

"Why should he have to starve himself to death when he could go (die) in a safe home with people that love him? "To think that he might have to waste away and starve himself to death is horrific and it makes me feel quite ill, to be honest."...

After the ruling, Mr Nicklinson said in a statement issued by his solicitors, Bindmans LLP: "I am devastated by the court's decision.

"I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery."

Asked what would happen if the appeal fails, his wife said: "Tony either has to carry on like this until he dies from natural causes or by starving himself."


Almost all of the British mainstream media, and especially the BBC, are campaigning for euthanasia on request - starting-with some rare cases of chronic paralysis such as the above - but as the speaker makes clear, what is being asked for is nothing less than the legal right to "a pain-free and peaceful death" - which is de facto the legal right to being humanely murdered, including the legal right that somebody act in the role of humane murderer.


This is not at all shocking to the modern secular Leftist, because their evaluation of life is purely hedonic - and when the balance between pleasure and pain tips too far in an adverse direction they regard it as the duty of the State to end things - simply out of compassion for suffering.

Of course, the vast majority of humans throughout human history have had painful deaths, unpeaceful deaths - deaths without 'dignity'.

For example, two of my greatest Christian heroes Blaise Pascal and Fr Seraphim Rose suffered horrible terminal illnesses lasting for some weeks. They would have been prime candidates for humane killing.

But in fact, most people have bad deaths - and by the criterion of 'a pain-free and peaceful death' would be 'deserving' of humane killing.

So this is not a trivial or minor matter, not at all - once the principle in is place that deaths ought to be pain-free and peaceful then the vast majority of people will be humanely killed - not least to be 'on the safe side' when suffering seems a likely prospect and to prevent it.


Of course there have been pagan societies of the past - such as Ancient Rome, or the Japanese in the Samurai era - when suicide became almost the normal way to end life.

But these societies did not kill themselves in order to avoid pain and be peaceful - (as I understand it) the Patrician Roman killed himself to avoid all his property being confiscated by the state if he were executed; a Japanese noble in order that his death be equivalent to death in battle.


Mr Nicklinson, 58, died at his home in Melksham, Wiltshire, this morning following a rapid deterioration in his health after contracting pneumonia over the weekend. He had suffered from locked-in syndrome following an accident in 2005 and wanted a doctor to be allowed to terminate his life...

Professor Penney Lewis, professor of law at the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King's College London, said today that Mr Nicklinson's plight would continue to raise questions about a change in the law, after being denied the right to die by High Court judges last week in a landmark ruling.

(Emphasis added.)


What is clear is that this has nothing to do with a 'right to die'. It is clearly acknowledged that this man could refuse food, as he apparently did for the days leading up to his death (reported elsewhere), and then he would die - and in fact he died within a few days of refusing food.

The whole crux of this campaign is not the right to die, but the right to die painlessly - which is de facto the right to be killed before there can be any suffering.

It has a conceptualization of life that regards any form of suffering, even temporary and terminal suffering such as humans have endured through all history - as utterly intolerable, such that nothing is worse, such that being murdered humanely is a right and to murder humanely a vital social function.

This just has to be the most clear cut example of moral inversion which can be envisaged; going against the most basic and uncontroversial and universal Natural Law.

And yet this is now the mainstream, normal, enlightened viewpoint among modern Western elite opinion - such that those who hold it are moralistically angry and outraged that anybody could object to their proposals.


Just take this on board.

The campaign to legalize wholesale humane murder is not an extrapolation, not science fiction - this is what is happening now.

This is the state of cutting edge, widely-supported secular morality.

This is not something being covertly or indirectly argued - it is a straightforward proposal supported by many or most high status people, pretty much all the mass media and university ethicists and experts of many stripes.

People feel good about themselves for supporting wholesale humane murder, because as good secular Leftists they regard suffering as the worst thing.

People feel very angry against those who block wholesale humane muder, they hate the people who oppose wholesale humane murder - because these people are cruel, they are deliberately inflicting suffering upon helpless people at the end of their lives.


The situation is beyond parody: the situation is an everyday fact of modern life.


Note - I would not like to give a false impression: I remember clearly what it was like to believe that wholesale humane murder - properly done, by decent sensible properly-trained people - would indeed be a vital element in continued human progress. To my former secular hedonic self, removal of that basic terror of the process of death seemed like a fine thing, crucial to peace of mind. To object was evil, reactionary, insensitive, indifferent. We moderns had got beyond such barbaric harshness. Only since I became a Christian did the scales drop from my eyes.



Joel said...

I recall from Eusebius that two virgin martyrs in Antioch drowned themselves to escape the brothel.

Tolkien gives an interesting "ability" to his Numenoreans: the choice of the time of one's own death. And it was the evil Numenoreans that abused themselves by not using this choice, instead living until they were senile and unmanned by age.

Suffering is not the same as evil, but it is a great evil.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joel - of course suffering is a great evil. But it is not the greatest evil - and if we start to treat it as the greatest evil... well, this is what happens.

dbk_999 said...

This brings up a question that often occurs to me. To what extent, when describing the goals/drift of modern liberal society, can we just point to Huxley's Brave New World and say..."that!" ?

John Fitzgerald said...

Couldn't this be viewed as typical liberal state worship?
The guy wanted the states blessings. Won't be long before pols are selling them.