Make them suffer


Blogger and voluntary euthanasia campaigner Mark Hubbard’s latest post is mercifully brief, just like a painful death from a terminal illness should be.

Letter to Editor: Euthanasia Does Not Devalue Lives of Disabled

According to Ken Joblin, Press 12 March, voluntary euthanasia quote, ‘makes people with disabilities feel less valued’. The arrogance of that remark is breath-taking: no person can judge another’s unhappiness. To say an individual must die in agony against their will because a total stranger might feel ‘devalued’ is non-sequitur, offensive and selfish; and this applies even if that stranger is living in similar circumstances of pain they yet find acceptable. The apt word in voluntary euthanasia is ‘voluntary’: it’s only for those who want that option, as many do. Every argument against voluntary euthanasia is the busy-body argument an individual must be left no volition over their own life. Adults self-manage health issues throughout their lives: managing one’s death is merely the end of that grown-up process. The disabled rightly tell the able-bodied to see issues from their point of view: well I’m afraid the opinion voluntary euthanasia devalues the life of a disabled person is as blind as Mr Joblin is partially sighted. No disrespect Mr Joblin, but please remove your opinion from those who have died or are dying in circumstances, sometimes appalling, against their wishes; just over last 12 months to put names to this issue: Rosie Mott, Faye Clark, lawyer Lecretia Searles – who still argues superbly for her right to that option as she manages life with brain tumours – Clare Richards and the list continues to grow, as long as we have no civilised euthanasia law.

Let’s be clear. It’s wrong to torture people to death. And

To say an individual must die in agony against their will

is to condone torturing people to death. And those who oppose assisted suicide in the sort of cases where it is typically requested are really no different from would-be torturers. It really is that simple.

Of course, you may say that I ride roughshod over the distinction between actively bringing something about and passively allowing something to happen. That I ignore the distinction between killing and merely letting die. That I fail to differentiate between causing suffering and allowing suffering simply by failing to prevent it when one could.

It’s an important distinction, to be sure. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, should we lump the priest and the Levite in with the robbers? Or, morally speaking, do they stand apart as somehow less deserving of our condemnation?

But no. The distinction here is between actively bringing something about and actively preventing those who would otherwise prevent something from happening from doing so. (Think of an embellished parable in which the Samaritan is impeded and threatened by bureaucrats when he goes to the aid of the man attacked by robbers.)

Current NZ law makes it a criminal offence to assist suicide under any circumstances.

Aiding and abetting suicide
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who—
(a) incites, counsels, or procures any person to commit suicide, if that person commits or attempts to commit suicide in consequence thereof; or
(b) aids or abets any person in the commission of suicide.

A prison term not exceeding 14 years? Bit harsh, just for complying with a loved one’s wishes to help hasten the end to their terminal suffering. (Could be worse though. Consider the case of Aldous Huxley. On his deathbed, he asked to be given LSD. His wife obligingly injected him with LSD. She could have faced life imprisonment for that!)

Make them suffer? Hell no! That’s just the name of the Cannibal Corpse song below, and the implicit maxim of sadists, psychopaths and assorted Parliamentarians. (Also clickbait.) If it’s not abundantly clear by now, I’m with Mark Hubbard on this one. In principle, I support legislative changes to legalise voluntary euthanasia. My lingering concern is with the form such legislative change might take. If the Psychoactive Substances Act is Parliament’s idea of drug law reform, then we could be in trouble. I don’t want my legal end-of-life choices limited to bureaucrat-approved modes of dying!

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (ESV)

See also the Parable of the Flood.

15 thoughts on “Make them suffer”

  1. It’s not torturing someone to refuse to harm them, or to refuse to allow someone else to harm them.

    Contract killing advocates have no logical arguments. None. It’s all emotive bullshit. They act like they’re the only people on the planet who’ve had to watch sick relatives suffer. And in fact, it’s the same kneejerk response that people give for supporting vigilantism. I can sympathise with someone like that, but it still never makes it right.

    It is impossible to objectively measure someone else’s quality of life. And until that day comes, the decision to take one’s own life should remain solely in the hands of the person in possession of that life.

    1. the decision to take one’s own life should remain solely in the hands of the person in possession of that life.

      Yes, absolutely. But if the person in possession of that life is not also in possession of the wherewithal to take their own life, they should be free to outsource the job.

      1. There is almost nobody who qualifies for that Richard. Even in extreme circumstances, people have the ability to take their own life. It is a question of how badly they want to, and isn’t that the question? Surely the only way to prove that someone really wants to die is that they are successful in attempting to kill themselves. And even then, how can we be sure? They could have swallowed the pills/jumped/flicked the switch, and in their final moments regretted doing so.

        Human rights are predicated on the will to live. If the latter is not present, then the former concept has no validity either.

      1. You can’t benefit a dead person. They’re dead, not in any spiritual/Gnostic state of release. We put down sick animals precisely because their lives have little value. It’s not a mercy to kill a suffering human. We are all suffering one way or another – it’s just a part of life. Our lives only have meaning through our perseverance and accomplishment despite adversity. That is, of course, not to pass judgment on someone who asks another person to kill them, but it does mean that there is no nobility in assisting them. The concept of “dignity” is a false one – it’s designed to comfort the living rather than provide anything for the dead. There is no dignity in death – you’re just dead.

        1. > You can’t benefit a dead person.

          Of course you can, Blair.

          You can also harm a dead person. Or do you wish to claim that David Bain, after shooting Robin Bain from behind the curtain of the alcove in the lounge, has since done his father no more harm? He’s done him an additional grave injustice.

  2. Yes, good post Richard.

    I agree that there are some similarities between this subject and vigilantism. Absolute opposition to euthanasia is wrong and absolute opposition to vigilantism is wrong for similar reasons.

    1. But in legal terms, there is never an “acceptable level” of vigilantism. And it is likewise impossible to make euthanasia acceptable in legal terms. You have to say that there are some times when helping someone die is murder and worthy of judicial punishment, and some times when it is not. Well what times are those? It comes back to what sort of pain qualifies for assisted contracted killing, and what doesn’t. Does the illness have to be terminal? How do you define that? (we are all terminally ill one way or another!) And what level of pain/disease is just bad enough, and what level is “not quite there yet”?

      Euthanasia advocates don’t like asking these questions. They would rather appeal to emotion and sentiment without actually using their brain.

      1. So, Blair, you think there is an “acceptable level” of government interference in personal affairs which are none of the government’s business? This sort of thinking can also be used to justify drug prohibition. Do you believe in that too?

        You disgust me.

        1. You disgust me if you think it is acceptable to take someone else’s life and decide whether they die or not.

          That’s the ultimate interference in someone’s individual rights. All of which, by the way, are rights to life, not rights to death. There is no right to death – such a thing is completely illogical.

          Governments interfere all the time, that’s why they exist. They tell us it is bad to kill other people and punish us if we do. That’s pretty damned acceptable interference to me. The onus is on YOU to make the case for exceptions, not me.

          Come back with an actual fucking argument before you talk about how disgusting you think I am.

          1. > You disgust me if you think it is acceptable to take someone else’s life and decide whether they die or not.

            Blair, please familiarise yourself with the distinction between voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia.

            No one is advocating murder. Not here.

  3. Richard, my very point is that such a distinction is impossible to determine. And even if it could, the right to avoid suffering is a right to life free from it, not death. Nor is it a right that can oblige or be transferred to someone else, which is what is at stake here, not the right of the individual seeking death, as euthanasia proponents falsely claim.

    If assisted contract killing is ever moral, why can’t a logical argument be made for it? Why is it always appeals to emotion, as if my granny with Alzheimers should have been put down? Why do I get called “disgusting” for pointing out cold, unignorable facts?

  4. > If assisted contract killing is ever moral, why can’t a logical argument be made for it? Why is it always appeals to emotion

    Because appeals to emotion is what changes people’s minds. People aren’t swayed by logical arguments. In fact, some even go so far as to deny their very existence.

    You want an argument for contract killing? Here’s one. My life is fully my own. Therefore, I may dispose of it as I please and you may not hinder me. It’s pretty simple really.

    > When things are fully our own, or when all others are excluded from meddling with them, or from interfering about them, it is plain that no person besides the proprietor, who has this exclusive right, can have any claim either to use them, or to hinder him from disposing of them as he pleases; so that property, considered as an exclusive right to things, contains not only a right to use those things, but a right to dispose of them, either by exchanging them for other things, or by giving them away to any other person, without any consideration, or even throwing them away.

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