Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Philip Nitschke is the true face of the campaign for suicide

Last Saturday my son Paul attended Dr Philip Nitschke's public meeting in London (see my blog of last Thursday). Paul has written his account and observations of the meeting (part 1, part II). Paul wrote:
"Dr Nitschke introduced the topic of the meeting as 'why it makes sense for every elderly or ill adult to know how they could peacefully and reliably end their life' ... Nitschke isn't concerned about people being encouraged to commit suicide and the impact this might have on them."
Wesley Smith, the stalwart anti-euthanasia bioethicist, has written extensively about Dr Nitschke and his promotion of suicide methods, not just for the terminally-ill but for anyone. Wesley says:
"[I]f society comes to broadly accept a 'right' of the dying to receive assisted suicide,...what would prevent legal access to terminal prescriptions from expanding eventually to people with serious disabilities and chronic diseases, the elderly and the existentially despairing, who, after all, might suffer far more profoundly and for a longer time? And indeed, that is precisely what has happened in the Netherlands and Switzerland, after assisted suicide became popularly accepted. Nitschke appears to be on the radical edge of the assisted suicide movement - but he's really not."
Dr Nitschke's activities seem to me to be grounded in, and helped by, a common acceptance of a laissez-faire attitude to suicide and its contemplation. I am reminded of a scene in the English drama "To serve them all my days". David Powlett-Jones, a school-master, loses his recently-married wife and children in a car accident. A fellow school-master, in a heated discussion with the headmaster, says (see video below):
"[I]f I were [in his place], I should probably do what is usually called 'something silly' ... PJ's his own man ... You may see human life as a sacred trust. I see it rather as something to be got through, with as little self-contempt and misery as possible - pretty insupportable at the best of times. If Powlett-Jones has chosen to put an end to himself, that's entirely his own decision. I respect his dignity, I don't think you do."
Because this attitude - that life may cease to be worth living and therefore 'dignity' requires the chance to commit suicide - underpins the campaign for legal assisted suicide, all the safeguards and limits proposed by the supposedly mainstream campaigners for so-called "assisted dying" are illusory. Dr Nitschke's free-market, supposedly radical approach to suicide is on its way to becoming mainstream. Only a societal rejection of the misanthropy underpinning assisted suicide will be sufficient to protect the vulnerable.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
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