So, the iconoclastic Left redoubles its attack on the greatest injunction of them all: Do not murder. Predictably, the “impartial” BBC is at hand to coax and cheer for a change in the law to make assisted suicide legal. This was evidenced by the deeply partial documentary Choosing to Die originally broadcast on BBC2 at 21:00 on Monday the 13th of June. The bien pensant who fronted the BBC’s propagandist documentary was Sir Terry Pratchett, the novelist and Alzheimer’s disease sufferer.
I was aware of Pratchett’s novels; I was aware he dressed entirely in black as if to contrast himself with the strikingly garish covers of his books; I was aware of his campaigning for the legalisation of euthanasia.
I had never seen him before and it was hard to come away from the documentary not liking him. He seems to be a thoughtful, sensitive man. However, I think he is wrong. I think assisted suicide is wrong.
For a start the phrase “assisted suicide” is an abuse of language. Suicide means to kill oneself (sui- self, –cide killing). This is not an unimportant definition, nor a literary curiosity, because it reveals the paradox embedded in the concept of “assisted suicide”; because if death is caused by the hands of someone else then it is not suicide. It is murder. It has to be.
By calling it “assisted suicide” we make it sound more palatable, indeed we make it sound palliative. We are even told, by invocation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), that people should have the right to die. We live in an age where we are obsessed with our “rights”, largely thanks to Human Rights Convention. But death is a fact, not a right. (The same misconception occurs too at the other end of the life-cycle when infertile couples profess the right to have children. Childbirth is not a right, it is a fact).
Language is important in this debate. Note how article 8 of the ECHR was invoked to equate the right to self-determination with the right to self-termination. Only two small letters have disappeared but the meaning is completely altered.
I have read article 8 of the ECHR. There is nothing in it that could possibly justify assisted suicide:
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Can anyone tell me where there might be a scintilla of suggestion that a man should have the right to have himself killed? I doubt it. Article 8 prescribes a right to a private life free of state interference, not a private death. (Somewhat rich considering that the European Union is the most soviet-style state intrusion ever visited upon Britain).
It is significant that the ECHR is employed, however craftily. The ECHR (in particular its British redrafting as The Human Rights Act) is a weapon of the Left who wish to destroy conservative Britain, the left who want to raze its Christian foundations. That pesky injunction not to kill somewhat undermines their generalised support for abortion and, I expect, imminent generalised support for euthanasia.
Euthanasia is, in and of itself, morally wrong. I have had conversations with people on the Left who disagree with euthanasia but will not bring themselves to object to it on a moral basis. I suspect this is because it would require a concession to the conservative values they despise so much. Instead, they reject it on a practical basis: That legalising euthanasia will compel unscrupulous people to arrange the death of someone old and infirm because the old and infirm are inconvenient or it is profitable to do so.
Whether they care to admit it or not, this practical objection is ultimately a moral one.
I ask those who would impose yet another cultural revolution on us to consider this: Getting rid of the undesirable and inconvenient was a practice of the most atrocious left-wing regimes of the 20th century.
It is only because of this current left-wing milieu that legalisation of euthanasia is even possible.
Unless many of our cultural revolutions are undone and others, such as this drive to legalise euthanasia, are resisted, even the most ardent reformers, revolutionaries and atheists will hate Britain once it has fulfilled all of their prophecies.
I would also encourage the euthanasia lobby to acknowledge their own lack of confidence in their campaign. Terry Pratchett himself is a hypocrite. He confesses to changing his mind every two minutes. How can someone so undecided usher others down the corridor of death? Who gave him the right to advocate others taking a course of action that they cannot reverse when he still has the luxury of changing his mind?
Terry Pratchett prioritises the completion of his new novel above his will to die. His purpose trumps his disease. Seen in this light, it is obvious that electing to be murdered can never be right. Can never be a right. He could take a flight over to Switzerland and have a compelling idea for a new novel in mid-air. But once the one-way ticket to Switzerland is bought, once the chair in Dignitas is booked, there is pride and pressure to not change one’s mind back.
It was heart-wrenchingly clear, when the two main subjects of the documentary went to Dignitas to die, they wavered in their last moments. Death is too big a thing to be unsure of.
Those who embark upon a journey to Dignitas are selfish too. They love themselves more than their families. It was clear that neither family of either subject of the documentary wanted to lose their loved-one. They would have preferred to care for their loved-one up until the last moment. When marriage vows are involved, as I presume in some cases they are, then to arrange your own departure from this world and refuse to stay with your spouse is to trivialise the marriage vow.
And Dignitas – Where is the dignity there? Dignitas sounds like a party Robert Kilroy Silk would front. From the outside it looks like a Big Yellow Storage warehouse, except it in blue. And death itself is there, sweetened with cheap praline chocolates and washed down with water.