Past ambiguities about what you could and couldn’t do tended to favour those whose job it was to interpret them — usually the priestly classes of the professions. But over the years we have come increasingly to believe that our judgments about ourselves, albeit as informed by some experts, have a sovereign quality. We have gradually applied this to our clothing, our sexual existences, our capacity to choose and change partners, our fertility, our spiritual beliefs — and now, inevitably, to our deaths. The choice to do as Freud did, to say: “I want to die now, please help me,” is no more or less than the choice that I want for myself. And even that understates it, I realise, because it is the choice that I now demand.
Life has become so devalued in the West that the choice to live or die sits next to choices about sexuality and fertility (in Mr. Aaronovitch's mind at least). But in some ways he is right to make that link: Our culture's frivolous treatment of fertility and the lives that result from it ties in to the devaluation of human life. We can kill our unborn children in the womb and now Mr. Aaronovitch makes the next logical step, we should be allowed to kill ourselves as well. Has life really become this cheap?
So why should we not have the right to determine, within reason, when and how we die? Some religious people will say, in essence, because God says so. But one may observe that sometimes God so invoked seems to have served mankind well (as over opposition to eugenics) and sometimes badly (as over, say, family planning). Church folk will forgive me for addressing some of the more secular objections raised in July’s Lords debate.
"Within reason"? Who defines what is "within reason?" Suicide is now "reasonable"?
First there was the point made by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that “any proposal to alter the current position involves a judgment that a certain kind of life, or a certain span of life, has become unworthy of support from [the] principle [of the sanctity of life]”. To which I reply: “No, it doesn’t.” What a proposal might do is to permit the liver of a life to decide its value — not Lord Mackay, me or the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Finally someone brings up the sanctity of life! Thank you Lord Mackay. And Mr. Aaronovitch: "Yes, it does."
Third, and related, was the contention, advanced by many, from the Bishop of Exeter to Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws that the law ought not to be changed because people would either feel “pressured into dying” or actually would be pressured into dying.
This seems to be the problem we're all facing... but hey, it would cut costs... and we really need to cut costs if this health care plan is going to work....