Page 3, 17th December 2004

17th December 2004
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Page 3, 17th December 2004 — Burdensome elderly have a duty to die, says Warnock
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Burdensome elderly have a duty to die, says Warnock

FRAIL ELDERLY people and the seriously ill have a duty to die rather than become a burden on the public purse, a leading humanist philosopher has said.

Baroness Warnock, 80, also said that parents should be made to foot the bill for keeping a baby alive on a life support system. “I couldn’t bear hanging on and being such a burden on people,” she told The Sunday Times. “When I say that, people throw up their hands in horror, ‘This is just [the attitude] we dread if [euthanasia] becomes permissible by law; people will feel they have to do it for the sake of their family’. But I don’t see what’s so bad about that. In other contexts sacrificing oneself for one’s family would be considered good. I don’t see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance.” She added: “It used to be so much easier to crawl into one’s corner and die than it is now because people are always dragging you off to be rescued.” Lady Warnock suggested that the frail, as well as the ill, have a responsibility as well as a right to die.

She said: “If I went into a nursing home it would be a terrible waste of money that my family could use far better, or even that society could use better with inheritance tax.” The peer was a member of the House of Lords select committee that unanimously opposed the legalisation of euthanasia in 1994. But a year earlier, she had argued in favour of euthanasia for the mentally incapacitated and for those who requested it.

In 1990 she also argued for infanticide of children with short life expectancies, an in the interview last week returned to the subject, saying that the sick relied on a limited public purse and to keep a baby alive on a life support machine would be to deprive someone else of the treatment.

She said: “Maybe it has come down to saying, ‘Okay, they can stay alive but the family will have to pay for it’. Otherwise it will be an awful drain on public resources.” Her comments came just days before a group of doctors from eight Dutch universities asked their government to consider legalising the infanticide of new born babies who were born with abnormalities. Politicians in the Netherlands, where euthanasia was formally legalised in 2002, will give their decision in the next few months.

Lady Warnock, however, argued that objections of any British doctors to euthanasia and infanticide should not be allowed to prevent its practice in the UK. “I don’t see why the rest of us should be sacrificed to the scruples of the medical profession,” she said. “Some say, ‘But we wouldn’t like to do it’. Of course they wouldn’t like to do it, but maybe they should.” She added: “I am not ashamed to say that some lives are more worth living than others ... yes, if someone else decides your life is not worth living, that is very dangerous, but the current [Mental Capacity] Bill would allow people to draw up living wills asking not to be revived, so it would be their own decision.” Her remarks drew sharp criticism from charities which care for the elderly, such as Age Concern. “The ageing society shouldn’t be seen as a burden,” a spokesman said. “The cur rent system of care is chronically under-funded and we should be looking at ways of improving the system rather than blaming older people.” Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, a Catholic who has been leading the opposition against the Mental Capacity Bill, described Lady Warnock’s opinions as “fundamentally wrong”. He said: “Her views show a disregard for the sacrifice our parents and grandparents have made over the years. She frankly devalues life by saying that.”

Mary Kenny: Page 10




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