A summary of The Case Against Euthanasia, by Donald Mcleod (From The Monthly Record, Feb, 1981)
Current publicity probably gives an exaggerated impression of the pro-euthanasia lobby. But the subject cannot be dismissed ‘lightly: ‘respect for human life derives ultimately from the fear of God and that is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.’
Danger highlighted in the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill of Lord Raglan in 1969. The provisions of this were,
- The patient signed in advance a form requesting “the painless inducement of death” in the event of him contracting an incurable illness.
- Two physicians, one of them a consultant, certify that the patient appeared to them to be suffering from an irremediable condition.
- The patient must not be a minor.
- No physician or nurse with conscientious objections to euthanasia should be under no obligation to administer it.
1. Euthanasia violates the principles of virtually every religion represented in Britain. Apart from ‘silly theologians’ like Joseph Fletcher and Leslie Weatherhead, the overwhelming majority of Christians have firmly opposed it. Judaism, Judaism and Islam are even firmer in their opposition to it.
2. Voluntary euthanasia is virtually assisted suicide. ‘There can be no doubt that, in the past, attitudes to suicide have been unduly harsh and one can only condemn the barbarous mediaeval legislation which rendered the estate of the suicide forfeit to the Crown and enacted that he be buried at a cross-roads with a stake driven through his heart.’ Yet suicide does gravely violate God’s will for man:
(a) It shows a selfish disregard for those whom it leaves to handle the after-math.
(b) The despair which precipitates suicide is itself sin – it ‘repudiates God’s love, refuses his help and fails to explore in any creative way the potentialities of his own situation.’
(c) The suicide also assumes that man has a sovereign control over his own life and a right to dispose of it as he wishes. God may indeed require us to sacrifice ourselves in the service of the gospel, or others, or freedom, ‘but it is impossible to visualise any situation in which a man may say, “I delight to do thy will, 0 my God” and then go on to take his own life.’
3. To legalise euthanasia would destroy confidence in the patient-doctor relationship. The doctor would not only become the object of some distrust; the whole relationship would be different. ‘He would become in exactly the wrong sense a noly man – a man whose official involvement in the termination of life would make him a dread-inspiring’ “wholly other”, regarded not with the confidence due to a fatherly general practitioner but with the sense of eeriness previously reserved for undertakers, witch-doctors and hang-men. His every call would send a chill through the streets: Which is it to be this time – life or death?’
4. The argument for voluntary euthanasia ceases to be even plausible, when we recall the ability of modern medicine to relieve pain.
5. It is exceedingly difficult to list the illnesses in which voluntary euthanasia might be a legal option. Many illnesses are “incurable” which no one would. think of linking with euthanasia – skin conditions, migraines, asthma, arthritis, and many forms of mental illness. The criterion of fatality is insufficient, since many years may elapse before a fatal illness does its work, ana since spontaneous remission may take place. Pain is not an adequate criterion, since some of the most distressing illnesses – e.g. quadriplegia – are painless. ‘Equal difficulties lie in the way of permitting euthanasia when the patient becomes incapable of rational existence. This would expose not only those suffering from from cerebral haemorrhages and senile dementia , but also the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped. It could also be extended, perfectly logically, to all long-term prisoners, who are exceedingly expensive to keep, often feel suicidal and have virtually no say in the determination of their own lives.’
6. To legalise euthanasia would put enormous pressure on some of the most vulnerable members of society. Take the depressed: it is true that any legislation would insist on advance notice of consent. But in the 1969 Bill this amounted only to 30 days. Legalised euthanasia would create acute problems of conscience for the elderly, aware of the burden they place on their relatives.
7. Beyond death. The suicide assumes, probably, that mere oblivion lies beyond the grave. And yet there must remain at least a possibility of something more.