This article, in the Sept. 5 edition of the London Daily Telegraph, is a reminder of the social forces we are fighting and of why we fight them.
Britain has legalised assisted suicide when no one was looking
I read the splash in The Times today: prosecutors in this country are turning a blind eye to cases of assisted suicide. The number of incidents where someone helps a friend or relative take their lives is rising; but no one is being prosecuted.
I didn’t need The Times to tell me that assisted suicide is, for all intents and purposes, legal. When I researched assisted suicide for the Centre for Policy Studies just over a year ago I could see the trend was underway: yes, the police was often questioning those friends and relatives who had returned from the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland where they’d helped their loved ones do away with themselves (and helped turn Dignitas founder, Dr Ludwig Minelli, into a milionaire); but the cases were always shelved. Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, had issued guidelines that spelled out clearly that it was not in the public interest to prosecute (or even investigate) cases of assisted suicide. “We’re losing this battle” a prominent campaigner against assisted suicide confessed, off the record. “Public opinion is against us.”
He was right: people are terrified of dying in the hostile environment of a hospital, of losing dignity because of a debilitating disease such as motor neurone, or even just old age. Our culture has become obsessed with health and youth: nothing else will do. If a little pill can take us out of the misery of brittle bones, immobility and incontinence, then let’s pop it.
But here’s a thought: what if, when you are 70, a bit frail, a bit needy, someone else decides that life would be a lot easier without you around? They can let you know, subtly, quietly, that their happiness and fortune would benefit a great deal from your speedy exit. They can pull at your heart strings and leave you thinking that, really, you owe them this. That’s when legalising assisted suicide turns tricky: because “suicide” in these cases is a euphemism. It’s murder.