Comments: synod votes against euthanasia

I thought *I* was cynical, and then I read the above with Rowan Williams introducing the whole economical slant on it.

Posted by Tim at Wednesday, 13 July 2005 at 11:54pm BST

I feel 29 degrees of ambivalent about assisted suicide.

On the one hand: I totally agree w/ the ABC, that the possibility of *economic imperatives* affecting this, are dangerous in the EXTREME.

On the other: as someone who used to live in the (U.S.) State of Oregon, where it is legal (for now, anyway: though the Bush Administration would like to overturn the state law), I have heard many testimonies of seriously-ill/terminal patients, who feel a great sense of comfort by having the *option* of AS, if living becomes unbearable.

But then there's those medical professionals who say "with a combination of the right Pain Meds, and/or anti-depressants, there's no reason for *anyone* to fear their life becoming unbearable" (a *stipulation* which is, in itself, highly-problematic in the U.S. health {non-}care system).

It's a mess.

I just don't know.

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 6:51am BST

I';m in favour of voluntary euthanasia, although I understand the difficulties of framing legislation. 80% of the public are sympathetic too, showing how, once more, out of touch the Church is.

The problem which simply hasn't been thought through is that medical technology has advanced to a stage where it is quite possible to keep people alive. But it is not possible to make their lives equally full in terms of quality.

What we have at the moment is widespread euthanasia by default, unspoken , going on, but not acknowledged.

I would add that I think there should be a conscience clause which does not make doctors partake if against their principles. Thereare plenty who will.

In the meantime, at least one can sign an Advanced Directive/Living Will which goes part of the way there in allowing people to die with dignity at a time of their choosing.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 10:35am BST

At present the syringe, the tablet or the draught in the hand of a medical professional spells comfort if not cure. But once legislation has created the possibility that these may be instruments of death, confidence will have gone. Rationality alone will not protect us from even groundless fear.

Posted by John Henry at Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 9:06pm BST

If that is the case, why do 80% of the UK population now support voluntary euthanasia?

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 15 July 2005 at 9:43am BST

Dear Merseymike,

You seem to be suggesting that ethics are a purely democratic concern, as if a majority of people supporting something somehow make it morally acceptable. By that reckoning, the genocide in Rwanda was acceptable.

The Church is hardly out of touch with the British populace; it is composed of them. Modern culture might today support something that is contrary to the Gospel ethics, but that indicates how uninfluential Christian teaching has become. The disparity between public opinion and the Church shows the need for the Church to reconnect to become more influential, not just amend its teaching to suit the general daily mood.

Posted by Tim Jones at Friday, 15 July 2005 at 6:42pm BST

MM - Truth and morality aren't defined by majority voting ! Or we would still have the death penalty in the UK.

Posted by Dave at Friday, 15 July 2005 at 10:43pm BST

No, that wasn't what I was suggesting.

The previous post to mine seemed to suggest that the population was terrified at the thought of doctors having this available to them.

The enormous shift towards support for some sort of change in this area suggests that this is not the case.

The difficulty is that despite their claims, palliative care is actually not very good at dealing with pain, and medical science has advanced to a level where it can keep people alive for many more years than before without being able to improve the quality of life lived in those years.

Many people have seen elderly relatives live lives with very little enjoyment in their last years, and have also seen them die slow, painful deaths. I think it is largely this which has led to the change in attitude, and I think the Church , whether it be right or wrong, seemed extremely out of touch in the reports I have read of the debates which went on.

This isn't just about 'truth and morality' - its about very practical questions of how much people should be able to make their own decisions and choices and how we aim tp provide pragmatic answers to difficult problems.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 1:11am BST

What needs to be mentioned here are some financial considerations. Care of the elderly is extremely expensive. It either swallows up the estates of those forced into full-time care, or consumes large proportions of the NHS and Social Services' budgets. Many old people already feel guilty about the cost or are MADE to feel guilty by relatives who want their inheritance.

If assisted suicide/voluntary euthanasia are made legal, then there will be colossal pressure on many people to consent to it: precisely because they are occupying a hospital bed, or spending the family inheritance on their care home arrangements.

In these circumstances they will feel that they can not trust the clinical judgements of doctors, who have a financial motive for emptying the hospital bed; nor can they trust their relatives, who they will see as being impatient for their share of the estate.

The experience of the Abortion Act is that the medical profession is very ready to view human beings in a terrifyingly utilitarian manner (180,000 a year in Britain, tsunami numbers of unborn children). So too with those who want "their" inheritance and are not prepared to wait. And the possibility of collusion between doctors and relatives, to stop so-and-so being a nuisance any longer, will soon lead to people's lives being ended like the family pet.

Posted by Catholicus at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 9:34pm BST

I think thats entriely fanciful, Catholicus. The usual scaremongering, justifying unnecessary and unwanted suffering, and removing the choice of the individual.

Of course, one thing which people can do is fill out a Living Will or Advanced directive explaining their wishes and directing the doctor in that direction.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 10:51pm BST

You may think it is fanciful. Do you have any experience or knowledge of caring for the elderly? Those I work with on a daily basis are already fearful of their carers and relatives. How much more frightening it would be if every doctor was a legalised Harold Shipman.

Do you remember the debates about the Abortion Bill in 1967? It was said that it would only be used in a few, extreme cases each year - as much to protect the doctors against prosecution as to protect women whose lives were threatened by a pregnancy. Since then it has become just another method of contraception, and a "right" demanded by a political movement, one which medics deliver without inquiring too deeply if at all into the actual medical necessity for the procedure, which destroys a human life at its most vulnerable.

If human life at its vulnerable, early stages can be so easily smoothed away, then there is nothing to suggest any restraint on the part of society or its medics when it comes to the vulnerable final days of life - not only those who are old but those suffering from illness at any stage of life. Cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, depression...where is the line to be drawn?

How quickly will we become just commodities, cheaper to erase than to repair? Without respect for the sanctity of life, not very long. There is nothing sacred about "choice", which seems to be your god. And in practice it means "no choice" for those who are pressured, bullied or simply signed away by their doctor or next of kin.

Posted by Catholicus at Monday, 18 July 2005 at 12:39am BST

I know a lady who had a "wonderful time" dying in a hospice! Palliatiove care can eliminate or greatly reduce pain in over 95% of cases I believe; and hugely increase the *value* of people's dying days.

I don't think life should be extended artificially unless a patient is insistent; and I don't see anything wrong with administering drugs to relieve pain at doses which may slightly shorten life (when it is short anyway).

I also think every effort should be made to support people in their dying days (tidying up loose ends, saying good-bye to family and friends, doing those "last things" to feel they are dying well).

If palliative care and support are done well I think the need for "putting people out of their misery" is addressed better and more lovingly; and with none of the risks of abusing elderly folks consciences, covering up murder, or lowering societal respect for the sabctity of life.

But euthanasia is less effort!

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 8:34pm BST

Better than unwanted and consistent suffering against their wishes, Catholicus,

Unlike you, I don't wish to force others to follow my religious beliefs. I don't believe in the catholic viewpoint on these issues (the 'sanctity of life'is a meaningless slogan) and see no reason why I should be forced into them.

My father certainly didn't have a 'wonderful' time dying in agony, pain not relieved, in the hospice. They did their best, but it wasn't enough. Palliative care can be excellent - and if people have the choice, there is no reason why it should not continue to be available.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 10:21pm BST

"the 'sanctity of life' is a meaningless slogan" - so you are not a Christian, MM? Why inhabit a site labelled "Thinking Anglicans" if you are neither?

The desire to protect life is, curiously enough from your point of view, not confined to religious believers. It affects everyone contemplating disease or old age, and it affects those who are now young, who may not wish to grow older in a society which simply puts people to sleep rather than pay the hospital bills.

Those prepared to speak out against euthanasia may be a minority in this culture of death, but as someone else has remarked, those opposed to the death penalty are also a minority. It has not prevented us from winning the argument again and again in Parliament.

Posted by Catholicus at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 12:22am BST

Catholicus: are you ANOTHER one smoking out Mike as a non-Christian troll or agent provocateur? So strangely for a site called 'Thinking Anglicans', his comments are consistently non-theological and secularist-individualist. There is the echo or shadow of faith in his words, but it is very weak now, and his views are practically indistinguishable from the bien-pensant pagan reared in a Christian home but now rejecting that heritage.

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 5:48pm BST

Mike - you have my sympathies; it must be horrible to see someone you love suffer so badly.

In principle I think doctors should be encouraged to use whatever means necessary to relieve horrendous suffering, even if conciousness or life-span is affected.

But I still want to see the primary effort and investment in treatment, pain relief, and improving quality of life in one's dying days.

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 6:12pm BST

The Daily Mail link is broken. I have found that the DM rarely keep these articles more than a few days on their site, unless the article is in favour of euthanasia. Now, there is an unbiased statement.

Posted by Vic Gerhardi at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 8:39am BST

So some people think the Church is not out of touch.The church is full of deluded people who think they speak for all Christians,thats what I call out of touch.

Posted by Rob Thornton at Saturday, 25 March 2006 at 9:50pm GMT

I am against Euthanasia because It is a rejection on the value and importance in life! People should have the right to die with dignity!!

Posted by Arielle Rivera at Tuesday, 4 April 2006 at 4:06pm BST
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