Protect life

You would have to be heartless indeed to remain unmoved, faced with someone in unbearable pain and battling the last tortured moments of life.  But – and there is a big ‘but’ here – it is a far cry to jump from attempting to help, with compassion and respect … to murdering them.  And let us make no mistake, that is what assisted dying and euthanasia is, ‘murder’ – which, as defined by the Bible, is taking the innocent life of another human being.  
Well, yes, advocates of a change to the law may say.  Strictly speaking, and put that way, it could perhaps be seen as murder, but morally speaking, ending the unwanted suffering of another human being isn’t murder – it’s a supreme act of mercy.
All of which goes to show that, whichever side of the debate you stand, the issue has become mired in over-emotive hyperbole.  Which, it has to be said, has not been helped by the likes of Esther Rantzen, who, suffering from terminal cancer, is calling for the right to choose for herself the moment of her death.  Again, one can only sympathise, both with Dame Esther and her family – no one wants to see a loved one suffer.  But the unquestioned assumption is that at some point in the future she will be in ‘unbearable’ pain, for which there will be no help, and that she has, therefore, an absolute right to end her life before that happens.   People are, therefore, being asked to agree with the assumption that her assessment of the future is right, and that any who disagree are cruel, unthinking, and probably religious, bigots!
Let me, however, offer a different perspective.  
In jurisdictions where assisted dying has already been legalised, without exception we have seen the numbers of deaths starting to sky-rocket.  In Canada, for example, which first allowed assisted dying for ‘eligible adults’ in 2016, MAID (medical assistance in dying) accounted for 4.1% of all deaths by 2022.  Similarly, in the Netherlands, the number of deaths by euthanasia has been steadily increasing by around 10% a year, accounting in 2023 for 5.1% of all deaths, including dementia sufferers and people with ‘severe’, but otherwise none life-threatening, psychiatric illness.
Depending on which side of the divide you stand, you may of course see this as good, but VfJUK recently produced a report on patients in the UK dying prematurely and inappropriately, following abuse of what is termed ‘end of life care’.  Admitted for sometimes relatively trivial conditions – such as a routine knee operation, or corrective eye surgery – such patients were put on a treatment package that included withdrawal of all medication, withdrawal of food and hydration, and inappropriate prescription of powerful sedatives, such as midazolam; whose only possible object was to hasten death.
Our report looked in depth at 17 case studies, but those 17 were literally the tip of a very large iceberg.  The truth is, there are already thousands of bereaved families crying out at the treatment received by their loved ones in hospital, which led to their premature death.   This, not to put too fine a point on it, is euthanasia by the back door, with so-called medical professionals already deciding whether or not a vulnerable patient gets to live or die.  
For every patient battling a condition such as terminal cancer or neurological disability and disease – and perhaps, like Esther Rantzen, crying out to die ‘with dignity’ at a time of their own choosing – there are countless hundreds … thousands … crying out for help to live and be appropriately cared for, while nature takes its course.  The truth is, these people don’t want to be subjected to extraordinary measures to keep them alive, but they don’t want die prematurely.  Rather, they want to live as long as they can, in the best way possible, and then slip away naturally.  
A lot is said by activists about individual autonomy and the right to choose, but, on the evidence so far, legalising assisted dying will not give that choice.  It will simply increase the pressure to die, removing any medical inhibition that at the moment may exist towards hastening death.
In a speech to the UN in 2015, UK Ambassador Matthew Ryecroft said, ‘How a society treats its most vulnerable – whether children, the infirm or the elderly – is always the measure of its humanity’.  We are already demonstrably failing to treat our vulnerable, infirm, and disabled with common humanity, but let us not compound the fault.  If and when assisted dying and euthanasia become legal, there is every danger it will rapidly evolve into the licensed culling of those deemed non-productive and a burden to society.  Remember, when abortion was legalised in 1967, it was claimed it would only ever be used in extremis, for at most only around 300 women a year!
Right or wrong, and again opinions will differ, people always have the option whether or not to take their own lives.  But that must remain their choice alone, and misplaced compassion does not justify others having either the burden or entitlement of making that decision.
Both as a society, and as individuals, we must care for those hard placed to care for themselves.  Especially, we must do all we can to alleviate pain and suffering, at all times treating others with genuine respect and care.  For common humanity and the good of all, calls to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia must be resisted.


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