It’s about dignity Your Ladyship – not money.

(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog 8 May 2013)
Financial considerations have no place in the euthanasia debate.

British Conservative Party Peer Baroness Warnock has come out with a shocking statement considering dementia sufferers.

In an interview with Life and Work Magazine, the 89 year old baroness stated “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service. I’m absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there’s a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they’re a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die. Actually I’ve just written an article called ‘A Duty to Die?’ for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself.”

Were the words of Lady Warnock not disturbing enough, then her next statement was deeply sinister, “If you’ve an advance directive, appointing someone else to act on your behalf, if you become incapacitated, then I think there is a hope that your advocate may say that you would not wish to live in this condition so please try to help her die. I think that’s the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you’d be licensing people to put others down.”

It seems to me that Baroness Warnock has completely missed the point about the right to die and, typical of a Tory, is heartlessly putting money above all other considerations.

I have long been of the persuasion that everyone should have the right to die with dignity, and that right should be incumbent upon the individual. The only reason we do not have the right to die is through archaic laws, based upon hypocritical rules laid down in a book of bronze age goat herders campfire tales.

By stating that an individual may not take their own life, the state is saying that they not only have a say in our lives but the ultimate decision on how they end. Except that our lives are our own. They are not the property of the state and far less of the church, which is particularly true for those of us who happen to be atheists, or other non-Christians who may be comfortable with the idea of euthanasia.

When a person has an incurable disease, are in pain, or if quality of life is otherwise diminished, then there is no dignity left in that life. And without honour, our lives are worthless. Such individuals therefore should be allowed to die with what little dignity they have, even if it is to end prolonged suffering. It is completely hypocritical that when animals are in pain, we quickly end their suffering, yet refuse the same to human beings; sapient creatures who know and understand only too well exactly what is happening to them.

But not only should we have the right to end life with dignity, but it should be absolutely no business of and no consequence to either church or state. Indeed, I am so indignant about this my view tends to be how DARE church and state shove there noses into the private lives of individuals to that extent.

Yet I have always been of the viewpoint that any decision to end ones life has to be entirely the choice of the individual concerned, that they must be of a fully sound mind to take that decision and there should be absolutely no coercion upon the part of any other individual within that decision. And I have always maintained it must be based upon quality of life.

What horrifies me about the statement of Baroness Warnock is the emotional blackmail of saying that dementia sufferers are a burden who are wasting the lives of others. Euthanasia based upon such considerations immediately puts the sufferer under coercion, possibly into opting for euthanasia when they may still want to live, and even still have quality of life. What astonishes me even further is that she would even mention financial considerations. That is putting a price on a human life, which to my mind there are not the riches in the world, nor shall there ever be, to match even the lowliest human being. And again, it is coercion and emotional blackmail designed to make the terminally ill feel guilty.

It is interesting that Baroness Warnock should single out dementia sufferers, for the quality of life of such poor people can actually vary greatly. Some dementia sufferers indeed end up in a wholly vegetative state, where the control of all bodily functions go, and some are in pain. Yet others are still in no pain, and maintain bodily functions, it is just the mind that has gone. No such cases however can be said to be of sound mind, and thereby incapable of taking the decision to end their lives. Of course Baroness Warnock speaks of allowing a proxy to say when their life is to end. The only problem with this is that just who decides when quality of life has gone, and by whose criteria? It is obvious then that we come back round to the argument of them possibly being a burden, be it financially or just seen as a nuisance, and the temptation to have people euthanised when they may be perfectly happy within their own minds – in which case there is still quality of life, and were they lucid enough, may actually refuse euthanasia.

A Facebook friend wittily asked if Baroness Warnock would have had Lady Thatcher euthanised. Joking apart, there may be a point here. Baroness Thatcher is known to have become something of an alcoholic and had pretty much lost her mind in her last days. Given that Thatcher, as a peer, received her pay from taxpayer’s money, was she then not a burden upon the state? Purely under Baroness Warnock’s rules, Margaret Thatcher would have been put to sleep.

And how about a little tongue-in-cheek case, that of Ernest Saunders. Ernest Saunders is something of a medical miracle, in that he appears to be the only human being to have been cured of Alzheimer’s Disease. Saunders was a one-time contributor to the Conservative Party and one of the “Guinness Four”, convicted of insider dealing and was jailed for five years, later reduced to two and a half years. While in jail he appealed and was released in 1991,having served only 10 months, on the grounds that he was suffering from pre-senile dementia associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. After his release he fully recovered from the symptoms associated with his condition. Hmmm. Surely such a burden to the taxpayer, suffering dementia, under Lady Warnock’s judgement, would have been euthanised. I am sure she would fully agree with that, wouldn’t she?

But then, as another Facebook friend pointed out, Lady Warnock herself, being 89 years old and coming out with such shocking statements, may well be suffering the onset of dementia herself. Would she, a peer paid by the taxpayer, then agree she has become a burden upon the state, and agree to euthanasia, or that perhaps others should take that decision for her? Be careful what you wish for your ladyship; it may just come true.

Baroness Warnock’s views are completely callous, barbaric, heartless, and speak more of her money-grubbing Tory views than any compassion she has for the suffering, that is assuming she has any at all. The Daily Telegraph describes the baroness as a “medical ethics expert”. I would counter that Baroness Warnock’s view of ethics is that “Ethics ith a county in the thouth-eath of England.”

Her comments are shameful and she should think black, burning shame of herself for them. But then, the magazine she is quoted in, Life and Work, is the journal of the Church of Scotland, who for giving such comments house room, should also hang their heads in shame.

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