And here we go with another religious justification for torturing people, from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Of course he doesn’t like to torture sick people, or to use his religious belief to justify such torture. I thought, well, if he’s prepared to use ridiculous rhetoric to make his case, I might too. But then I thought again, decided that’s basically dishonest, and added this retraction. I’ll leave the dishonest BS to Justin.
With other faith leaders, I have joined in writing to members of parliament, urging them to oppose Rob Marris’s assisted dying bill. We have written, not in an attempt to push “the religious” viewpoint on others …
I’m sorry, Justin, but that’s precisely what you are doing, with other faith leaders. You are indeed trying to push your religious views on us.
but because we are concerned that a change in the current law on assisted suicide would have detrimental effects both on individuals and on our society.
And your view that the effects will be detrimental is biased by your religious views. Now that’s not to say you can’t provide a reasonable argument independent of your religious views, I’m just saying I don’t think you have. But let’s get down to addressing your concerns.
First, a change in the law to permit assisted suicide would cross a fundamental legal and ethical Rubicon.
Yes it will, for the better. For too long the principles of the sacredness of life have been, yes, sacred – i.e. religious. Life is a process. We, that is our mental selves, are along for the ride. Only your religious convictions associate this life with additional notions of souls and minds that are distinct from our physical reality. I don’t share your views. I value this life and the lives of others while they are being lived. I’m all for improving health and medicine to extend enjoyable life as much as possible. I’m even keen on using more advanced artificial means of extending life where it is wanted, perhaps in ways that you might not – if being a cyborg could bring a greater more enjoyable life I’d be for it. Only a presumption of the specialness of human life in some weird mythical sense sees current humans as the pinnacle of earthly creation. See us properly on an extending evolutionary scale and we are just somewhere in there and are not the chosen ones the religious presume we are.
This respect for the lives of others goes to the heart of both our criminal and human rights laws and ought not to be abandoned.
But, look, it is precisely out of respect for the wishes of those of a free and sound mind to maintain self-determination at the end of their lives that I think they should be able to do as they wish. Do we need religious busy-bodies dictating to the slowly dying that their lives are worth more to the living religious than they are to the ones carrying the burden. You’re not helping in the way you think you are – because you are thinking like a religious know-it-all that knows what your god wants when it comes to suffering people. If someone of sound mind, facing long term suffering and incapacity really wants to end it, I respect that wish, and if they can’t do it themselves it seems only humane to assist and not hang around with useless false comfort and a bit of cheering on while watching them suffer.
While it is not a crime in the UK for someone to take his or her own life we recognise that it is a tragedy and we, rightly, do all that we can to prevent suicide. The assisted dying bill requires us to turn this stance on its head, not merely legitimising suicide, but actively supporting it.
This is truly moronic, or dishonest – maybe both. Of course, this bill isn’t about ‘legitimising suicide’ or actively supporting it, because this isn’t really suicide in the usual sense that we’re talking about. This is quite different to, for example, the many cases where people with psychological troubles are looking for an out because they are suffering mental torment.
This is about people who know they are going to suffer the remainder of their lives in some soul destroying diminished capacity, if not abject pain, and they’ve had enough. This is suicide only in a technical sense, and it is only in this technical sense in which your concern here applies – which makes me think it all the more dishonest, that someone supposedly as spiritual as you is missing the spirit of the bill, which is to relieve suffering, to show some respect for self-determination, to have some compassion for a person that understands their own mind. It’s not about ‘actively supporting suicide’ at all – far from it. The bill very specifically guards against suicide, in the spirit of the term.
We are asked to sanction doctors participating in individuals taking steps to end their lives. This is a change of monumental proportions both in the law and in the role of doctors; it is little wonder that it is opposed by the medical profession.
You misrepresent the bill, Justin, because its intent is to make it as fair and as safe as possible. Doctors have never been opposed to this en masse, and those that appreciate the relief from suffering and recognise the brutality of enforced continued suffering, have always had to play stupid games to get around the law. It’s a terrible moral mess that puts doctors through this, as well as the suffering patients.
Currently, those who act wholly out of compassion in assisting someone they know to end their lives will not face prosecution. I feel profoundly the grief and struggle of anyone finding themselves in such a situation, desiring to respond with love in the face of suffering.
So, here you are tacitly legitimising and supporting assisted suicide? And I can only think it’s your religious convictions, that you want to impress on us, that makes you put that aside for the sake of some ridiculous principle. Dishonest. Actually legitimise assisted dying, if you really want to be compassionate. Put your sky-god in his compartment, as you have to do so often as a religious believer dealing with real life.
I know what it is to sit at the bedside of someone you love enormously and yet be torn by fears and worries about their future.
It is your religious belief that presumes there is a future that should be had, in this world or the imaginary next one. Now, if the patient believes the same, and does not want to end their life, then by all means do your religious thing and give them the support they ask for. Nobody is forcing you or dying fellow believers to give up religious principles for yourselves and actively seek or assist in death.
But, Justin, we don’t all think like you or believe in fantasies the way you do. We are capable of self-determination and prefer it to Welby’s-god-determiniation. I don’t want you having a say in my death, or preventing it when I’m ready to go. So, thanks, but butt out.
I agree that the law should take a considered and compassionate approach to caring relatives who are asked by those closest to them to help bring their lives to an end. To change the law, however, to give individuals access to medically prescribed lethal drugs risks replacing the type of personal compassion that is forged in a lifetime relationship for a “process” marked by clinical and judicial detachment.
In other words, despite your religious convictions, you are here justifying lying, pure dishonesty, hypocrisy. What your position amounts to is, “It is wrong to assist you. But hold on, I’ll just look the other way. … Oh, did you die while I wasn’t looking? How sad but noble of you to fight to the end.”
You’re a fraud – even if you don’t realise it yourself. But I don’t find it strange that the religious are able to fool themselves so easily, as it’s a requirement for religious belief in the first place.
As the European Court has noted, the legal understanding of the “right to life” would have to be fundamentally rewritten and for no good effect.
This is plain stupid. The “right to life” is just that, a right, to life; the capacity for me to maintain my life in the face of others that might want to take it. It is my right, not yours or the European Court’s, or the law’s, or my government’s. While our government has a duty to assist in my right to life, to help protect my life against those wishing to take it, it has no rights with regard to my life.
What a “right to life” is not, is a requirement to live. The government should not have the “right to my life” such that they must protect my life against me when I am able to judge it has run its course and is no longer useful to me.
Again, this is not the same issue as stepping in to help someone who is ill and does not have the psychological competence to maintain their own life. If we find someone unconscious after a road accident it is prudent to think they did not want to be in this predicament, and so we actively aid them in their “right to life”. If someone is seriously depressed then it is right to help them recover so that they might re-appraise the worth of their life, to them, not to your religious convictions.
- My right to my life is not your right to enforce my continued life upon me.
- your duty to help me maintain my life, when I want it maintained, or when it is safe to presume I would want it maintained is not your right to presume I want my life maintained, when I have, in a state of full competence, specified conditions when I don’t want it to be maintained.
Get your god damned religion out of my life!
On to Justin’s second concern …
Second, a change in the law would place very many thousands of vulnerable people at risk. … It is impossible to ensure that they and other vulnerable people would not be placed under pressure to end their lives prematurely in ways that proposed safeguards cannot hope to detect.
Nonsense. There’s one simple requirement: assisted dying can only be used when the patient has, during a time of mental competence, made a living statement about their right to die wishes, or when, with reasonable precaution, it is thought they would wish it, or, where they protracted suffering is unavoidable. Yes, this is new ground, but it’s not too difficult to come up with clear states of being under which the right to die is complied with.
Make no mistake, MPs are being asked to take a huge gamble that a changed law would protect the vulnerable. There is no need to take such a risk since the current law continues to protect the vulnerable while harbouring no threat for those who act wholly out of compassion.
This is utter rubbish. Of course the law can and would be adapted as circumstances arise. You worry about MP’s, but not my right to self-determination? Religious authority shows too much concern for authority in general – let the MPs do their job and the right thing and give the freedom of self-determination we are asking for.
But more than that. Those that act out of compassion are precisely not the people whose right to die is the subject of this statement. Without a pre-determined statement of conditions in which one might want to die, leaving the burden on those loving family and friends, and the doctors, while there is still the potential weight of a murder charge hovering over their heads, ignores the well-being of all those directly concerned, and totally ignores the wishes of the person that wants to die.
We know from the US states of Oregon and Washington that between 40% and 60% of those who used legally prescribed lethal drugs to end their lives cited concern that they would be a burden on their families as a factor in their decision to bring their lives to a premature end.
The problem here is not with the principle of burden. I, now, in good health and hopefully some time off any miserable death, anticipate the horrendous suffering I’d impose on my family with a drawn out painful end. I value my life greatly, but I know that there could come a time when I submit my family to a dreadful struggle. And it’s no good telling me how much they would want me to struggle on, how much they would not want to lose me – I take those as given, knowing my family. But we’re talking about MY choice here, not theirs. The decision about how much of a burden I want to be is MINE, not theirs; or yours, Justin Welby!
The situation is this, if my dying is such that I would want an assisted death: 1a) I will die at the end of a long, painful illness, in which my family watches me slowly die, and 1b) then I will be dead and they will miss me; 2a) they will see me die quickly, under my own terms, without further suffering, and 2b) then I will be dead and they will miss me. They suffer (b) in either case. Why would I want to put them or me through (1a) rather than (2a)? Only a warped religiously inspired perspective would see any virtue in (1a) and immorality in (2b).
So, since the principle of burden is not the problem, the case of the figures you quoted exposes an actual problem of establishing the subjects’ thinking on the principle of burden prior to their actually becoming incapable of rational decision making.
There is a genuine problem that has to be addressed.
When my second child was born my wife insisted that no matter what she says during childbirth, I must not let the doctors give her an epidural (one of those treatments that still carries actual risk – as a friend having a knee replacement recently found out to her cost). Needless to say, with a breach birth and a long struggle, the air was blue with my wife’s insistence that the doctors should in fact kill the pain – and I of course could not object, seeing her suffering.
So, when it comes to painful end game of life, how do you deal with a loved one who had previously declared their will to live on but who changes their mind and decides, in their pain, they want death? This bill doesn’t solve that problem, but neither does the current state of affairs. It is possible that in such a case the weight of opinion at the time, of the patient and the doctors, would assist dying and be protected under the bill; but not under current law, where there is no process that justifies their action, and where a case could be made that they were killing the patient against the patient’s prior wishes.
The reverse isn’t a problem. With a stated wish to die when suffering a protracted end of life, if a person declares that they have changed their mind, perhaps had some religious epiphany and decided they must suffer on, then by default that wish should be upheld. If the subject swaps and changes over a period of time, by all means default to holding off the deadly injections.
But when the stated wish is continuously and consistently stated and documented until such time that the patient loses all capacity to reason, then uphold the wish and put an end to the suffering.
Once a law permitting assisted suicide is in place there can be no effective safeguard against this worry …
The worry is an unjustified one, Justin. If I don’t want to be a burden on my family when in a state of suffering, then why would you add to my suffering all the more by making me watch them watching me in an indeterminate painful end? Your logic seems clouded by something. I wonder what. A religious presupposition that all cases of choosing death is morally wrong? You are imposing your religious convictions on this conversation in a way you declared you were not.
never mind the much more insidious pressure that could come from a very small minority of unsupportive relatives who wish not to be burdened.
This doesn’t hold much water either. First, if the family is genuinely unfeeling they can just walk away and leave it to the state to look after the subject. If they have some motive for wanting a quick death for their relative, then with or without a declaration from the subject it should not be their decision. Why do we give so much weight to family to make these decisions? Partly because under the current system the burden cannot legally or fairly be put on the doctors, and also because without the right to die and a pre-declared wish to die the family has become the natural go-to people.
Of course there are situations when family may wish the subject dead sooner rather than later despite the subject’s own wishes, and that’s another reason why a clear right to die declaration should be required, and the assisted dying agreed by independent doctors and a court. And as with current (UK) conditions for power of attorney, there should be legal and medical backup to establish the state of mind of someone making such a declaration ahead of time, and the doctors and the court should protect against potential conflicting family interests.
So, that leaves us with a case where the subject has declared their wish to die under some conditions, and those conditions have been met by the subject’s state of health. The fear that the family might now wish that the subject were dead is irrelevant. Their wish is merely coincidental with the subject’s, albeit with different motives. If someone dies in an accident and a family member declares, “Good riddance”, we might censure them, but we would not be tempted to accuse them of murder.
The exhaustion of caring, sometimes combined with relationships that have been difficult for years before someone fell ill, can lead people to want and feel things that they should not.
Religious morality comes to the fore again. Who gets to decide whether one’s feelings are justified or not? Wishing someone was dead, for whatever reason, is presumed to be awful and immoral, ‘sinful’. Does that always apply? Was it wrong to wish Hitler dead? Come on, Justin, do a little philosophy here. When do the religious thought police become justified in deciding what we should and should not think? Do I get to enact laws that prevent you thinking your spiritual thoughts?
Even so, even if you are firmly convinced that wishing someone dead is immoral, having a legal framework in which a subject can state their own conditions for death removes this burden from worriers like you, Justin. No doubt your religious ire will continue to be inflamed, but I reject your stance on this. If I’ve declared conditions under which I want to be put down, then I want my wish upheld no matter how much a family member may wish it for nefarious reasons. Whose death are we talking about here? The subject’s. Whose wishes are we talking about here? The subject’s.
Just as my estate has to be dealt with through the inconvenient process of probate, if I don’t leave instructions, then by not declaring the terms of my own death I’m leaving family and friends in a burdensome position that I know as a sane person I would not wish upon them.
Many people hope they leave this life with a quick and painless end. They hopefully anticipate death in sleep after a good life. I don’t know anyone that thinks it’s a good idea that they live a slow and painful death, have their bodies survive in some diminished totally dependent state. Why you would wish this on others instead of a determined assisted resolution when self-determination has gone, is one of those perverse mysteries of religion.
All of us who have been involved in pastoral care and bereavement care have heard the confusion people feel about how they behaved to a demanding relative.
Yes, and that’s why family members should be removed from the decision making. If the subject has made a wish then that’s what determines that a chosen end of life is on the table. If the subject has not had the opportunity to state their wish, then the suffering should be assessed by doctors, family, and, as the bill requires, independent views. A demanding relative will not dictate the outcome for a subject that has made their wishes clear, because it will be backed up by independent doctors and by the court.
Note here that when it comes to people that are already in a state whereby they wish to end it soonish, and have mental competence, but not the capacity to do it themselves painlessly, they can be pretty far into the incapacitated state and still be competent enough to declare their wishes.
I would suspect there will be more problems where family members object to the death wish of the subject than there are from those colluding to end a life against the subject’s wishes. Even atheists sometimes have interfering religious do-gooders making moral decisions for them. I’m sure many people are forced to suffer a long game when they might wish a shorter one for themselves. Even when they have clearly stated that, they are forced to live on and suffer.
If, Justin, you want to call the right to die ‘suicide’, then I choose to label your version of your right to enforce unwanted life as ‘torture’.
The tests in the bill do not make space, and never could, for the infinite complexity of motives and desires that human beings feel.
The current system does not make space for even finite complexity of the motives and desires of the subjects wishing to be done with their own lives. So, complaining that the fact that some position does not account for infinite possibilities is a bit lame, Justin.
Also, the safeguards are actually stronger than I’d wish for myself. So, “A terminal illness (with a prognosis of six months or less to live)” does not allow me to die under some conditions that I would want to apply. If I was entering a near vegetative state with sever dementia (having got past the stages where I come in and out of self-awareness, suffering confusion and fear) it is reasonable to say that I would no longer be suffering, in my mental oblivion. In such a case I now, while still in a competent state, would wish that in such a future my life be ended for no other reason than that I would be a burden on my family, and the state (i.e. the greater population). My choice.
How come if I run into a building to save a life, but die as a result, I’m a hero, but if I want to relieve my family and the state from caring for an empty fleshy carcass, I’m somehow not quite right in the head when making that decision before that dismal state occurs? Religious presupposition to objective moral correctness, that’s how. To hell with your opinions on what’s right for me!
The law at present does make that space, …
It does not. It dances around it dishonestly.
and yet calls us to be the best we can.
Who the hell gives you the right, Justin, to demand I be the best I can when near death; and who gives you the right to decide what being the best I can amounts to? If I feel my life has run its course and I want to remove myself from being a burden on my family, who are you to moralise that I should not? As it happens, I think I would be being the best I can be in the circumstances. But why expect someone to be at their best in painful death? Your whole perspective is fluffed up with pious ideology.
My third concern is that we need to reflect on what sort of society we might become if we were to permit assisted suicide.
I’m ahead of you here Justin. I’m already reflecting on what sort of society we are for putting up with religious presuppositions to moral authority. Get over yourself. Your fancy hat doesn’t buy you moral authority in my book. Your undue privileged position in the House of Lords is getting you far more say in this than is warranted for believers of fairy tales and myths.
At present, we can show love, care and compassion to those who at all ages and stages of life are contemplating suicide. We can try to intervene, to support them to embrace life once more.
Quite right. But I would put it to you that the right to die is incorrectly conflated with suicidal tendencies brought on by mental distress. It is possible that mental distress could bring on depressive suicidal thoughts in the very subjects of this debate, whereas if they were of sound psychological mind it would not choose assisted death. That’s what the safeguards are for.
We can do all in our power to surround those who are terminally ill with the best possible palliative care, including physical, emotional and spiritual support. We can redouble our efforts to alleviate suffering. We can show that we love even when people have given up on caring for themselves. We can support our doctors and nurses as they act consistently in the best interests of their patients, affirming life and caring for the vulnerable.
Palliative care is an honourable thing is some cases: on the battle field or in an accident, with no hope of assistance; in cases where the subject has decided they have some moral duty or see some virtue to carry on. By all means do what you can to relieve suffering.
And all that means not a jot if the subject has already decided their own fate. What happens to self-determination? You have removed it at a time when they need it as much as any other. Typical of the religious, presuming they know best what others want or need – or what is ‘right’. And if the subject declares they want death, the religious answer is that they couldn’t possibly be right, because God wouldn’t want them to think that way.
Religious presuppositions are crawling all over your opinion on this, Justin. I and many others don’t share them. Even many religious people don’t share them in the same way. You are so far removed from our reality you can’t see it, or choose not to let us have it for ourselves, even though we have no objection to you doing your religious thing when dying.
We risk all this for what? Becoming a society where each life is no longer seen as worth protecting, worth honouring, worth fighting for?
This is about as dishonest as you can get. When you ask, “We risk all this?”, the risks you have outlined are not risky at all, or far less risky than the current state of affairs. And it is your religiously biased opinion about what society should be that is clouding your opinion on what will happen to society. The right to die is actually improving society, acknowledging the wishes of the individual without burdening them with the religiously determined weight of the sanctity of life. Odd that a death cult that sees a better life after death as something waiting in the wings should be so clingy even when the subject knows what they want.
The current law and the guidelines for practice work
They do not! Many people suffer when they should have an opportunity to end the suffering. But they can’t, because a history of religious presuppositions about human life have been battered into us by religion – often literally and fatally, ironically. The current law and guidelines are working for you, so that’s what’s important, eh?
In spite of individual celebrity opinions and the “findings” of snap opinion polls (that cannot hope to do justice to the intricacies of the issue)
Oops, your religious authority slip is showing. Of course, why didn’t I realise that. We need the training of men in clown suits that believe in imaginary beings to get to the real rational fundamentals of a problem like this.
And yes, you can consider that an ad hominem, if you wish, but it is no worse a one than that demeaning statement of yours. Who the hell are you to presume that the people polled do not know their own mind? Who are you to decide that many of them have not got well thought out opinions about their own life and death? And it wouldn’t matter if a minority wanted this change.
The bill helps those that know they are in for a rough ride determine their own end-game, and it helps those that are suffering when otherwise they would be forced to endure, by family, doctors or the law. It’s an attempt to provide more dignity and to relieve more suffering that the current state of affairs does.
You are opposing a bill that would give us self-determination at a time when we wouldn’t have the physical capacity to act on it, and when loving, caring assistance would be appreciated.
Stop the torture, Justin. Support the bill.