Saturday, 9 February 2013

A good death-1

It was good to meet yesterday with Sharon Crisp's A level RS class at Wootton Upper School. I was asked to speak on the sensitive subject of euthanasia (literally a 'good death') from a Christian perspective.

There is growing pressure for a change in the law to permit assisted suicide and yet another bill is going to be presented to the House of Lords by Lord Falconer in May of this year (there have been three previous attempts since 2006). This impetus largely comes from the group formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society now rather misleadingly renamed the Dignity in Dying group. I say misleading because although there is a claim that the organisation works for improved end of life care, their real raison d'être is a push for a change in the law favouring assisted suicide. It's an important point to make because in countries such as Holland where assisted suicide is permitted there is a corresponding lack of palliative care facilities and research. Indeed where there is the option to take one's own life at a time of one's own choosing, where is the need to provide excellent resources and care for a patient slowly dying over their last 6-9 months of life?

I would say that there are several reasons why we should  oppose  a change in the law. One of them is the signal it would send to disabled people. Our culture is rather sentimental and ambivalent about disability. On the one hand we idolise the 'superhuman' paralympians, and yet on the other there is a-perhaps unspoken-suggestion that some disabilities result in a life 'not worth living' (this argument also applies to the increasing pressure for abortion where abnormality is noted in the foetus). Baroness Campbell says this so much better than me, and so we watched this short video in class with the students.


Another time I'd like to think about autonomy and the question of being a burden to others adding to the pressure for a change in the law. There is an organisation called Care Not Killing which provides helpful resources in opposition to assisted suicide.
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