No one has the moral right to take a life
THE emotive responses to my letter against assisted suicide (B Merriott and B J Connell), only confirm that hard cases make bad law and the issue of killing, or helping to kill other human beings, needs to be discussed calmly, objectively, ethically and morally.
Whether your correspondents like it or not, history proves that once a right to kill, for whatever reason, is made legal, then society progresses down a slippery slope and safeguards become redundant because that basic moral Rubicon has been crossed and the law slowly becomes liberalised. This has been seen with the Abortion Law in this country and with euthanasia in Holland.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg last year, ruled that while there is a "Human Right" to suicide, the state has no obligation to provide citizens with the means to commit suicide. Grégor Puppinck, the director of the European Centre for Law and Justice explained, "The Court notes that the vast majority of member States place more weight on the protection of an individual's life than on the right to end one's life and concludes that the States have a broad margin of appreciation in that respect."
Assisted suicide involves someone else, such as a close relative, doctor or nurse, helping a person take their life. In the case of euthanasia, it means someone else actually having to perform the deadly deed. This is a dreadful responsibility to put on the shoulders of someone else. Those asking for assisted suicide will not be the ones left with the pangs of conscience and guilt over what they misguidedly felt obliged to do under pressure from another.
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I do not live in a bubble. My father died last Saturday at the age of 97. He had dementia, heart disease and pneumonia. In close collaboration with his GP and care assistants in the residential home, my dad was kept comfortable until the very end when he died peacefully with his family around him. This is called palliative care and is a universal right which will be undermined by legalising assisted suicide. (Unlike this country, there are very few hospices in Holland). I understand that both of the correspondents on this issue were motivated to spare relatives pain at the end of life, but palliative care is the answer until they die naturally, not assisted killing.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) definition is thus: "Palliative care is the active holistic care of patients with advanced progressive illness. Management of pain and other symptoms and provision of psychological, social and spiritual support is paramount. The goal of palliative care is achievement of the best quality of life for patients and their families. "If families feel that their relatives are not receiving such care then they must demand it for them."
I think that B J Connell, in stating that we should not have the presumption to act like God, undermines his own argument. No one has the right or moral authority to take, or help take, an innocent life. That is the prerogative of God alone.