I am compelled to return to the topic of euthanasia so soon because I fear the abruptness with which I closed the last essay may have limited the strength of my argument. I said at the last that I hadn’t had the opportunity to rebut the points raised by Deborah Penk on the vulnerable in society facing the greatest damage from euthanasia.
Her shout on stuff was was a rather straightforward cry for old conservatism. George Eliot writes of such conservatism in Middlemarch as believing “that everything that is, is bad, and any change is likely to be worse.” Exigent for hopelessness, sure of nothing by our own human evils, and limitations. It is a pathetic piece of writing, but nonetheless it has annoyed me sufficiently to warrant another essay.
I want to first of all point out a slight error in the grammar of her argument. That is that the vulnerable in society will lose out if the law changes. My point, I hope it is obvious, is that the vulnerable in society lose out in everything. That is why they are the vulnerable, euthanasia is not a special case. On disability I can write from a personal perspective, and I find it incomprehensible that I may be any more likely to off myself with the aid of a doctor than any of my contemporaries.
Rooted in Deborah’s thinking is an assumption that people with disabilities live less fulfilling lives. I will not be thought of, or spoken to in this way. I cannot run on the beach, but I still enjoy lying in the sun. I enjoy wine, good food, both of these immeasurably improved by company, and entertaining people in conversation with wit and curiosity. I live for making young women laugh, for reading, for writing, and who is going to tell me that my life in unfulfilling.
Maybe I should grant Deborah a degree of doubt on this question, and assume that she means that the elderly, the disabled, and those from dysfunctional families, are all at risk of the same thing. That is, they will face unrelenting pressure from loved ones to remove themselves from the picture. I find this argument hard to get off the ground even if I suspend the laws of physics. Is a loved one, who is exerting pressure on you to die, still a loved one? Furthermore, if the requirements followed by the Dutch — that the decision to die is voluntary, that the condition is terminal with no possibility of recovery, that pain or discomfort is chronic and severe, and that alternatives to euthanasia have been offered and time taken to consider them — are followed properly, there is little chance of a patient being euthanised by pressure.
Perhaps I am naive on this point, I appeal to the comments to further consider it. The matter remains the same, death is inevitable, but it does not have to be squalid. Knowing that it becomes an ethical imperative to reduce the instances when it is squalid as much as possible. Sigmund Freud chained smoked cigars for decades and suffered oral cancer for years. In 1939 after he had fled the Nazi’s to settle in London, he decided that the pain was no longer bearable, and requested an overdose of morphine. It was administered and he peacefully died.
Freud succeeded in his life to propel psychoanalysis, and psychology more generally, to revolutionary heights. Counselling practiced in modern times has its root and heart in the talking cure that Freud pioneered. But look at the lack of respect paid to him now. Freud is trashed and repudiated by feminists and new-age psychology students who have never glanced at his books or lectures. They react to his reputation rather than his substance. This is the problem with the euthanasia question, it gets rubbished by people on the basis of what it represents, not what it is. Euthanasia represents a rejection of the concept of god or nature projecting its will on you by choosing the hour of your death, and is the ultimate act of emancipation.