Monday, 11 February 2013

A good death-2

Continuing from my last post on the sensitive subject of euthanasia, perhaps the single most influential aspect of the argument in favour is that for autonomy. This boils down to the bold statement, ''it's my life and I can do with it what I like". In many ways this is the mantra of our age in which choice has become it's all conquering dogma, from the choice of energy suppliers, to breakfast cereal, to doctors, to cars, choice is everywhere.

In the opening chapter of A time to live, George Pitcher brilliantly analyses the growing self-absorption in our culture throughout the last 50 years. Writing about the 'swinging Sixties', he notes,
At a distance of half a century, the Sixties are widely perceived as being less about a self-generating miracle of fresh and youthful energy, directed at replacing a bunch of war-mongering squares and fogies, and more about the triumph of selfish individualism at the cost of self-awareness.
He goes on to say  that the Me-generation of the Sixties has gradually morphed into the Gimme Generation at the turn of the Millennium
What for thousands of years had been revered as the sanctity of life had developed a death rattle. A ghostly pallor was on the cheeks of the age old idea that every life was of equal and limitless value. If everything else in the span of our human existence was tradeable and biddable, if all life's products and services, from health care and water supply, to education and prison services, even spirituality and other 'quality time', then why could death not be bought and sold? Truly free markets started to offer us not just the life we wanted but the death as well, delivered as one of our entrepreneurial service industries, life and death had become commodities.
Professor John Wyatt argues very strongly against autonomy as a reason to change the law in favour of euthanasia. In his excellent Cambridge Paper he notes,
Indeed we risk the lives of valued citizens such as police officers to try to save the life of a man attempting suicide from a bridge. Why risk precious lives in order to save someone who doesn’t value his own life? It is because our society, though penetrated by liberal individualism, is still deeply influenced by Christian ideas of solidarity, interconnectedness and mutuality. ‘…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
And he summarises his thought here,

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