Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When man becomes God

The trouble with us as a nation is that we are a nation away from God. As a result, we have become more individualistic, more selfish. My life is my own, we say, and I can do what I like with it.

If we have an unwanted pregnancy, we can get rid of it by killing the unborn child. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with my right to choose. That's why we are now talking about allowing assisted suicide. Old people and sick people are a nuisance. They affect my autonomy. They interfere with my right to live my life as I want to.

Once upon a time, in a more godly age, we would have been afraid to take innocent human life. With God pushed out of the way, we can do it with impunity. The Bishop of Durham recently made a valuable point. If you get rid of God, he said, you inflate yourself to be divine instead.

In a recent article, Wesley J. Smith, the American pro-life commentator, warned what is likely to happen in the UK if assisted killing is permitted here. He quotes the case of the assisted suicide of Myrna Lebov in Manhattan in 1995:

The case generated national headlines in the States - as so many recent UK assisted suicides have - when Lebov's husband, George Delury, announced that he had assisted his wife's death at her request because she was suffering the debilitations of progressive multiple sclerosis.

Delury's defense of compassionate assistance quickly became a cause celebre. He was lauded as a dedicated husband willing to risk jail to help his beloved wife achieve her deeply desired end to suffering. Assisted suicide advocates tub-thumped for legalization, while some editorialists asked why doctors shouldn't be allowed to relieve such misery so that husbands wouldn't have to. Delury appeared on television and radio programs and spoke to a convention of the American Psychiatric Association. He quickly signed a book deal, later published under the title But What If She Wants To Die?

Today, a UK George Delury probably wouldn't be prosecuted, and indeed, might even be applauded by family members. But. . . the actual story eventually came out. The story it tells illustrates the danger presented to society's most vulnerable populations by the UK's current path.

In part because Lebov's sister launched a media crusade against Delury, and in part because he foolishly kept a computer diary - perhaps in preparation for his planned book - it soon became clear that George had put Myrna out of his misery. The diary showed that Lebov did not have an unwavering and long-stated desire to die, as Delury had claimed. Rather, as often happens with people struggling with debilitating illnesses, her moods waxed and waned. One day she would be suicidal - but the next day she was re-engaged with life.

Moreover, Delury worked assiduously at destroying his wife's will to live by making her feel like a worthless burden. In one of the many damning diary entries that came to light, he wrote about a plan to tell his wife: "I have work to do, people to see, places to travel. But no one asks about my needs. I have fallen prey to the tyranny of a victim. You are sucking my life out of my [sic] like a vampire and nobody cares. In fact, it would appear that I am about to be cast in the role of villain because I no longer believe in you." Delury later admitted that he had shown his wife that very passage.

With the diary's publication, Delury's planned "compassion" defense became inoperable and he quickly accepted a plea bargain that put him in jail for several months. But that still wasn't the end of the story. In But What If She Wants To Die - published after he became constitutionally immune from further prosecution - Delury wrote that he had smothered Lebov with a plastic bag because he was worried that the drugs she ingested might not be sufficient to kill her. . .

The Delury case, says Wesley Smith, needs to be kept firmly in mind as the UK decides whether public policies should punish all assisted suicides - or just those of the young, healthy and able bodied. Many apparently believe in the latter approach. But be warned. Approving assisted suicide of the most sick and disabled is like telling teenagers "Don't smoke, but if you do, use filter cigarettes." The decidedly mixed message will create the opposite effect of what might be intended.