Tuesday 11 June 2013

Dignity in Dying - Your choice: prolonged torture or swift murder


The patrons of the pressure group Dignity in Dying include some people I know (or have known) personally, plus many others I have considerable respect for, in some way; plus some others who are famous and/or influential.



It is interesting, therefore to reflect on how it is they find themselves supporting such a wicked policy, and one which is absolutely certain to be widely and savagely abused even beyond its intrinsic wickedness.

The reason seems clear from the justifications or rationalizations given for the patrons support of this cause.

They perceive that at the end of life there is for many - and increasing numbers of - people a stark choice between prolonged torture and swift murder.


The assumption which is accepted as inevitable, is that modern medicine, health and social service institutions now control death - and that their intractable default is to perpetuate life at any cost until finally defeated by death.

Therefore, these patrons reason, since prolonged torture is the worst imaginable thing; the only solution is for this same set of medical, health and social services that currently maintain people alive as a torture, should instead murder them before they have to suffer prolonged torture.

Anyone who works for such organizations as the National Health Service will therefore have to commit murder when required by their bosses, as part of their job; or to collude in murder.


(This outcome is what is termed Death or Dying with Dignity - although I can't see what dignity has to do with it - surely it is about pain and suffering?)


My (inevitably incomplete) solution to this impossible dilemma is quite simple: to distinguish between life-extending treatments and palliative or suffering-reducing treatments - and as a default, unless requested otherwise, as the norm, to refrain from life-extending treatments in the elderly and terminally ill.

Everybody must die of something, and towards the end of life people need to be aware that someone saved from dying from X now, will inevitably die from X, Y or Z later - and the dying later may be much, much worse than the dying now.

In particular, we each need to be aware of this in ourselves. If we insist in being dragged back from death's doors (or refuse to step through them when called) - than that is not the end of the matter.

Those who refuse to consent willingly to death will have death nonetheless forced upon them - willing or not.

If we become willing to die, and let die, when the time comes - then this will mostly eliminate the pressure for people to be 'humanely murdered' in order to avoid the terrifying and horrifying consequences of what passes for modern 'health care'.


Titus Didius Tacitus said...

The process of persuading elderly relatives to consent to legalized murder before medical bills eat up their estates will create new adventures in emotional sadism.

stephen c said...

This post reminds me of one of my favorite of your posts - from 2010 - Euthanasia, Antibiotics and Terry Pratchett - which discusses in empathetic detail the problems faced by people when thinking of a feared and confusing death ... Rereading it, I liked especially the line about intensely wanting to comfortably die with Tallis on the I-pod as being (I paraphrase here) wrong in many ways (for one, life is not the accumulated total of good experiences minus bad experiences), and I appreciated the advice on how to deal with life-threatening colds and pneumonia in the later years.

Donald said...

I think you are spot on on this post, it is the conclusion I also have come too.