Can we be trusted with euthanasia?

Feb 1, 2019 by

by Ian Birrell, UnHerd:

It is largely accepted in the modern democratic world that people have the right to do as they determine with their bodies and their lives. We permit competent adults to make many important choices such as sleeping with whom they want, altering their appearance with cosmetic surgery, having an abortion or changing gender. Many things that were once taboo have rapidly become normalised.

So should we let individuals make the ultimate decision: to control the timing and nature of their own death when they have debilitating and terminal health conditions?

This question cuts to the heart of our humanity and rights. Several places in North America and Europe already permit death-on-demand in different forms. Now, as pressure grows for reform in the UK, often driven by powerful testimonies from terminally-ill people, the influential Royal College of Physicians is polling its 35,000 members on whether the law should be changed. The body has said it will ditch its opposition to any change unless six in 10 doctors are opposed.

For Britain to follow Belgium, Canada and the Netherlands down the path towards euthanasia, would be significant. Our nation is seen as a pioneer in the creation of the hospice movement and development of palliative care thanks to the late and very great Dame Cicely Saunders. But surveys indicate there is strong public support for change. I am, as an atheist and unashamed liberal, philosophically sympathetic to those seeking legalisation of assisted dying.

Yet, ultimately, I am concerned about any proposed change. Putting aside my admiration for our palliative care system, which I have seen at first hand within my own family, this is for two key reasons. The first was driven home to me two months ago when I spent a few days investigating the impact of this issue in Belgium.

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