Page 4, 23rd September 1977

23rd September 1977
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Page 4, 23rd September 1977 — Is euthanasia on the way?
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Is euthanasia on the way?

I had expected to see a deluge of replies to Charles Wilshaw's letter of September 2, in which he puts the case for legalised voluntary euthanasia. Catholics, it seems, are more interested in arguing about the liturgy than anything else. is it any wonder if we are regarded as a push-over?

Mr Wilshaw, at any rate, takes us for fools if he expects us to believe that the legislation he is promoting will affect nobody except those who wish to be affected by it. The "atmosphere" created by legalised euthanasia, however voluntary, will affect everybody.

One could call it a' "Yolande McShane's Charter," with the added impetus of having the "example" of those who request euthanasia to hold over the heads of those who will not. Sooner or later that "example" is certain to be held up causing misery and distress.

Most old people arc sufficiently sensitive not to want to be a burden to anyone — and sufficiently nervous to be caused great distress when confronted by the doctor or nurse who has just administered euthanasia to the person in the next bed: or who might have administered euthanasia to any number of people.

Or are we to have special "euthanasia doctors" in special uniforms? Or "euthanasia clinics" for patients who request it and doctors and nurses who are willing to administer it Just how is the whole thing to be implemented in a hermetically sealed environment, causing distress to no-one?

The only conclusion one can come to is that the promoters of voluntary euthanasia see "mercy killing" as a normal and natural extension of caring for the sick; in which case they are going to want the whole thing to be done quite openly I What would happen, in the long run, to doctors who refuse, on grounds of conscience, to give the "serviee" of euthanasia? Presumably the same thing that has happened to those who refuse to give the "service" of abortion: the BMA openly admits there is no future for such people in British gynaecology! Mr Wilshaw suggests that, since he tolerates our religion, we should tolerate his legalised voluntary euthanasia. (Which sounds like a vague threat of religious persecution!) He is evidently under the impression that Catholics oppose euthanasia on religious grounds only.

On the contrary, the ordinary humanitarian considerations, which are shared by non-Catholics and non-Christians, should be quite enough to prevent it being legalised in any circumstances. A. G. Williams Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Mr Charles Wilshaw writes (September 2) to express his support for legalising voluntary euthanasia. Quoting David. Hume, he suggests that there is no moral difference between the lengthening and the shortening of life, because both "interfere with Providence."

This is most untrue. The fundamental difference is that while medicine gives life, euthanasia wilfully destroys it. Medicines, far from interfering with Providence, allows us to participate to a greater extent in the giving of life — that sacred duty of allmen and women, both Christian and Humanist.

The only real basis for any morality is the belief that what gives life is good, what destroys life evil. Although it cannot be shown that life is an unconditional good in all situations (including the deathbed), this belief is implied in the same judgment, both legal and

moral, of two murders — one of a healthy man, the other of a dying man. Similarly, suicide is morally if not legally wrong in both cases. But this will not deter Humanists and others from seeking euthanasia legally in the future. It seems to me that legalising euthanasia would represent for the Humanist and atheist more than an increase in in dividual freedom. If implemented, it would be a symbolic victory over religious attitudes and religion in general.

People like Mr Wilshaw fail to see the catastrophic outcome of their call for this personal freedom. One inevitable result, which is the least talked about, is the gradual disintegration of all respect for life. What value could life have if it was no more precious than a can of Coke to be discarded when almost empty? As Jesus himself prophesised: "There will come a time when those who kill you will think they are doing it in God's name." (Humanists, read "Freedom" or "Love" for "God".) Christianity tells us in the golden rule that respect for others begins in respect for ourselves. What will happen when we lose respect for our own life?

Mr Wilshaw, it seems. not only wants to put new wine in old wineskins, he wants to go down to the wine-cellar and tear a legal hole in every wine-skin he can find. Look-. ingsit the damage later he will only be able to say: "The wine needn't have come out if it didn't want to."

In his letter Mr Wilshaw calls for tolerance and freedom. He might equally ask for the legalisation of all dangerous drugs, for if life is to be ended at will, why may we not legally poison ourselves?

In the eyes of the man in the street today, why would it be a crime to injure someone, when it is legally permissible to "terminate his life"?

On the personal level there is very little one can say to a Humanist contemplating euthanasia. One could remind him that the life which waspreviously ennobled, joyously affirmed, is violently contradicted, if it may be done away with because of suffering. Far from a "merciful release," euthanasia is a betrayal of everything life was and is.

It should be forbidden legally for the same reason lethal drugs and pornography are forbidden. Every act has a social context; some actions are so socially dangerous that the individual must be prevented from doing them. As an after thought, I would ask Mr Wilshaw to imagine what kind of weapon euthanasia might be in the hands of a malignant authority, some time in the possibly less democratic future.

Paul Daly Stillorgan, Co Dublin.




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