One of Britain’s most influential newspapers, The Daily Express, has decided to back the legalisation of “assisted dying”. The Daily Express is a tabloid and is not known for its intellectual sophistication, but its editorial is rather puzzling. It reassures readers that “assisted dying” (good) is not euthanasia (bad) and is not assisted suicide (also bad). If it is neither of these, what is it?
Apparently, we must now regard poisons as medication and regard assisted killing as “assisted dying” — authentic assisted dying used to mean palliative care.
As George Orwell warned in 1984, the meaning of unpleasant-sounding words can be reversed when those in power want to make them more palatable. What used to be called “being killed” must now be called a “dignified death” and we must learn to see dying a natural death as inherently undignified.
The Daily Express buttresses its shift by describing the plight of 74-year-old David Minns. Mr Minns has a rare and painful condition called amyloidosis that is slowly damaging his vital organs. He says: “I want to be able to choose the time which is right for me when I know that I can’t go on anymore, when my suffering has got to the stage where I want relief. I want to able to die with dignity and be able to say my farewells to my family.”
Bizarrely, “right to die” campaigners give the impression of being a voice crying in the wilderness, and yet when – if ever – has anybody featured a sick/elderly/disabled person who didn’t want to die – who actually wanted to be cared for?
I am one such person. Despite suffering disabling conditions and a catalogue of symptoms, I spent ten years trying find a diagnosis.
Now my specialist has told me – by phone – that he no longer needs to see me as I have no new symptoms; I should see my GP if I develop any. When I did develop unexplained bleeding, I eventually got another phone appointment, which produced the promise of another appointment at some unspecified date in the future. Now I also have Covid. I have been solemnly advised about possible symptoms. I have had most of these for years and they were dismissed as “minor”.
Does anyone truly believe that a farcical medical system like this can run “assisted dying” without gross abuses?
Thankfully, my mental powers are not too impaired, but there are thousands of people who are so disabled and so afraid of becoming a burden that asking for “assisted dying” would be easier than asking for help to live.
Perhaps if “the right to die” campaign also campaigned for the right to be cared for – the right to palliative care at the end of life – their case would be more convincing.
According to the specialists – none of whom are quoted in the coverage of Mr Minns’ story — there is no need for anyone to “die in agony”, as campaigners so often claim. Indeed, palliative care experts are warning that the British public is being scared into supporting assisted suicide.
Where is the journalistic balance on an issue that involves the life and death of the most vulnerable people in our society?
It is no wonder that campaigners can claim the support of a majority of the public, when the public never gets to hear the other side of the story – the appalling abuses against vulnerable persons along the slippery slope from “assisted dying” to euthanasia, as we go from “the right to die” to the duty to die, lest we become burdens on our families and the hard-pressed health services.
The CEO of Dignity in Dying, Britain’s lead lobby group for the “right to die”, Sarah Wootton, says “the right to choose how and when we die embodies the values we hold most dear in this country”.
But a civilised society does not turn aside from those who say they want to die because they are suffering — a civilised society wants to prevent or alleviate that suffering. Neither does a civilised society believe that everyone has “the right to die”. A civilised society implements suicide prevention programs, not suicide encouragement programs. It tries to reassure the newly-diagnosed and offer them treatments – real medicine – rather than scaring them with stories of unbearable suffering involved in those treatments and offering them lethal medications instead.
G.K. Chesterton insisted that “Right is right, even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong about it.” Caring for the weak is right; killing them is wrong. Dying is not dignified when you are dying because nobody cares enough to care.