Friday 12 September 2008

The false dichotomy behind assisted suicide

Today's Independent features an interview with Debbie Purdy (pictured with her husband Omar, outside the high court), a lady with multiple sclerosis who is pursuing a legal challenge relating to assisted suicide. SPUC is seeking to intervene in the case so I can't comment here on the case itself. I can say, however, that The Independent's interview is at best biased and at worst seriously factually misleading.

Dignity, compassion and solidarity are all at the heart of the pro-life response to illness and disability. Protecting life and autonomy, providing good palliative care and ensuring people's psychological welfare are, and should in practice be, inseparable. It is the pro-euthanasia movement which implies or even claims that these things can be mutually contradictory. They claim that the good of life can be an obstacle to the good of autonomy, and that a patient's psychological welfare can't be ensured if palliative care can't permanently remove all pain. This is because they don't or won't realise that:
  • only if life is protected as an inalienable good will the vulnerable be protected against violations of autonomy and dignity
  • palliative care can help all patients and treat most pain
  • illness, suffering and disability are an inevitable experience of the human condition which challenges us to care, not kill.