Friday, June 23, 2017

Can we put to death the Euthanasia Bill?

Recently a private member's bill re euthanasia was drawn from the parliamentary ballot and so we are a nation facing the possibility that our parliament will do what it is has not done before and legalise the assisted taking of one's own life.

I am instinctively against such a bill because the "key" it offers, choice about the time of one's own death, opens the door to later social compulsion to die at the time of one's family's choosing. Even, when rationing of resources kicks in, at the time of one's government's choosing.

For details about the bill and the objections of the Inter Church BioEthics Council (ICBC) to it, read here.

I agree with the ICBC. This bill should be euthanased at this time so that the current select committee process runs its course.

13 comments:

Bryden Black said...

Fascinating! PC posted this nearly a week ago. And not a murmur ...
Personally, I find this entire proposal for a supposed "dignified death" so tragic as to redefine the inhuman. But then I'm also aware of its genealogy - and so am not 'surprised'.

Peter Carrell said...

It does trouble me, Bryden, that I might need to make the post about (something like) "Opponents of same sex marriage to be euthanased" in order to stir up discussion on what is, actually, a critical issue for the future of our society!

Bryden Black said...

Actually in fact - no future ...

Anonymous said...

Bryden, who is PC?

Such proposals, Peter, often come wrapped in an absolutist rhetoric of rights, autonomy, etc that I usually find immature. In substance, however, they seek reliable suicide as an alternative to either a course of unnatural, late-life treatment repugnant to the patient, a clumsy or botched suicide that could be even worse, or else a course of palliative care that clouds the mind. So a narrow proposal-- that may not be what your parliament will consider-- could grant physicians effective immunity from prosecution in cases where the dozen or so worst treatment courses have been prescribed. And not otherwise. Whether such a law would cause more or less use of medically-assisted suicide (MAS) depends both on how much physicians and nurses are already quietly doing without it, and also on how judges, prosecutors, and juries try those cases that come to light. Those who remember harrowing deaths from the past may well feel a certain reforming zeal to increase the incidence of MAS, but a widely-accepted law could conceivably reduce it.

Since palliative care in advanced medical centers is so much better than it was, I myself do not see the practical need for such laws today. Apart from ignorance of that fact, I suspect that proposals for MAS have survived their original rationale and live on as a symbolic gesture. The symbol appeals to those who oppose having a Christian ethic believed by some behind public laws compulsory for all, who see patients as frail reeds in the heartless machine of industrial medicine, or who see the body as the natural frontier where social coercion in any matter must cease. The sentiments of those for MAS seem similar to those of persons against mandatory vaccinations.

As in the case of That Topic, I draw a sharp distinction between the preservation of vestigial Christendom in secular societies, and advocacy to secular folk of a better way of being human in Christ: one sends people to jail, the other sends people to Christ. I do this (a) partly because St Paul plainly distinguishes in Romans between the subtle ethos of Christ and the cruder rule of Caesar, (b) partly because I worry that Christians never actually advocate their better way as God intends when they can just sit back and let the state coerce it, and (c) that the church is too easily instrumentalised for partisan purposes when it volunteers to be a permanent lobby against all change that upsets old people. That does not mean that Christians should have nothing to say about public moral issues or laws, but it does mean that there is a trap to be avoided of overreliance on the hangman to make people behave well, especially in societies that are self-consciously pluralistic. Our counsels to others should be motivated solely by a plausible compassion for those God places before us, not by a delusion of perfecting the use of all too human coercion in this aeon.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Apologies Bowman! PC = Peter Carrell our host.

Jean said...

I was murmuring Bryden just to myself : ) ...

Legalising euthanasia will lead us down a slippery slope. Not least because it opens up the question of whether a person lives or dies and when as a question we get to make. To me this is God's domain. If you take France where Euthanasia is fully embraced, look also at the fact that 90 odd percent of the Down's syndrome babies there are aborted before being born, and discussions to introduce laws such as the 'right not to care' are happening. What may seem a simple solution to unecessary suffering, and I don't know many people who have not or are not affected by the suffering of those close to them, actually starts re-defining what value our collective society is willing to place on a life and what love means. A total contrast to this view can be found in the L'Arche communities.

I am grateful when my nephew was born and given three days to live, with heart, kidney, eyesight, cleft lip and pallet, feeding (through a tube), and hearing difficulties that euthanasia was not even on the menu. Would this come under the term 'unbearable suffering?' Imagine having to decide that without hindsight? Now nearly 15 he says in his random ad hoc wisdom statements, "I really like being alive because every year I learn something new" or "oh well I guess if I was completely blind I would have just learnt Braille and other ways to do things." I would be a lesser person for not knowing him and so would the world for not having him in it.

In response to medicalisation Bowman I do think in some circumstances it does appear like there is too much intervention particularly in old age to keep people alive yet there is not compulsion for this. Not here anyway. People are able to refuse treatment or choose alternatives and I have known a number who have done so, opting to forgoe unpleasant treatment even if it will possibly mean a shorter life-span. I also think it is important for doctors to have the role of preserving life, as is their oath. Here anyway it is illegal for a doctor to give any treatment which will hasten death (except abortions) despite the urban myths of a little bit of extra morphine being given to 'push people over the edge.' There may be some doctors who could live with or justify in their own minds giving permission for or carrying out euthanasia but I wouldn't envy the position; other examples such as people in the US involved in carrying out the death penalty indicate involvement in such decisions carry a personal cost, legal or not.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes forget that BB prefers initials to names.

BW

Bryden Black said...

Aha! But thems not all the initials Bowman ... Rom 14:7-9

Brian Kelly said...

IMHO & FWIW, using initials ATT is OTT.
lol!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, BK, your evident enjoyment of words and wordplay has long invited the question: do you write poetry? And if not, why not?

BW



Anonymous said...

Yes, Bryden, Romans 14:7-9 shows why there is an unavoidable difference in this aeon between the laws of states and the canons of churches, between the best of our cities and the descended New Jerusalem: compliance with any rule depends on motivation, and Caesar neither can nor should use power as though the ordinary, unregenerate citizen were motivated to live and die in Christ. Indeed, when the morality of Christ's disciples can be enacted into generally-obeyed civil law, we will know that the Millennium has begun. The wise state uses coercion sparingly, but more than any church, and orders society so that participation requires conscientious diligence, but not heroic sanctity.

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

Ah BW - in my younger days, yes, and usually reflecting a young man's interests: the discovery of faith and the discovery of love. And it's hard to overstate the influence Eliot's work had on me as a 16 year old, though I was far from understanding most of it then. 'The Wasteland' with its picture of civilisational collapse, leavened with multilingual fragments, haunted my mind at that time, then I went onto 'Four Quartets', his greatest achievement, a suitable accompaniment as I entered the Christian faith in my late teens. I had forgotten what I knew about that philosophical opus until I watched some excellent lectures on youtube a few months ago.
In any case, poetry has always appealed to me more than fiction, with Keats and Yeats high up among my favourites. I was always astonished at how much Keats achieved for one who died so young (four or five of his odes are among the greatest poems in any language), and it was a huge joy to discover his apartment in Rome, at the foot of the Spanish Steps, where he was to die of consumption. As for Yeats, we holidayed in Sligo a few years ago specifically so I could retrace his footsteps and climb Ben Bulben. My wife, a keen hill walker, was happy to go along with this. And it was wonderful to see his grave in Drumcliffe Churchyard ('An ancestor was rector there' - 'Under Ben Bulben').
To conclude, a piece of humorous hubris. When I was in the fifth form (Year 11) in Dunedin, our English teacher fancied he would teach us loutish boys how to write lyric poetry (a fool's errand, I would have thought). He began by developing on the board the image of a slug leaving its silvery trail behind it, leading to the didactic point that we humans should learn from the slug and leave a similar sparkling trail of achievement. I wasn't impressed with his effort or choice of metaphor and said so. For my rudeness I was sent out into the corridor with a sheet of paper and told to do better. So I composed there a piece of 'vers libre' on anti-Vietnam War protests which I showed my teacher at the end of the lesson. He rather liked what I wrote, and unbeknownst to me he typed it up and sent it off to a publisher where it appeared in an anthology of NZ secondary school poetry called 'My Poem is a Bubble' (ed. Helen Hogan). I've never been able to find a copy but a snatch of my poem was cited in the review in The NZ Listener. That was the beginning and end of my career as a published poet.

Bryden Black said...

The biggest challenge for me Bowman, notably taking the State's limitations in mind, is the impossibility of legislating adequate protection of all who may be/become vulnerable - disabled folk, mentally ill, dysfunctional family background. This has proven frankly to be the dangerous Trojan horse in all other countries who've gone down this road ... Utterly tragic!! For once things get 'normalized' they thereby become 'expected'.