Saturday, November 06, 2010

Why the 'chattering classes' have got it wrong

Euthanasia supporters among the "chattering classes" are playing on fears of death and dying to call for the legalisation of assisted suicide in the UK - but it will be not they, but the elderly, the frail and the not-so-well connected whose lives will be at risk.

So says Cristina Odone, journalist, novelist and broadcaster, in a report for the Centre for Policy Studies. She is a research fellow at the centre.

If assisted suicide were legalised, a new category of less-than-perfect citizens would be created, she says. Hard-pressed hospitals and hard-up institutions would see the elderly and frail as a burden to be disposed of, not people to be cared for.

"The elderly, people with severe disabilities, the mentally unstable, and those with terminal illnesses will be presented with self-inflicted death as a natural, normal and expected final solution.

"They may feel that, once over a certain age, or grown too dependent on others, or too fed up with life, or too ill, they should opt for death rather than life. Worse, many may be coerced, actively or subtly, by cost-conscious hospitals, or by intended heirs with an eye to a legacy, or by exhausted carers."

The report warns that assisted suicide, once legalised, could slip quietly, almost unnoticed, into full-blown euthanasia.

Then there was news that Maryannick Pavageau, a Frenchwoman who was in "locked-in syndrome" for years - conscious but paralysed after a stroke - has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur for her efforts in the fight against euthanasia.

Some of her comments are interesting. "Public statements," she said, "produce unexpected collateral damage amongst people suffering from serious illness such as locked-in syndrome.

"We are constant consumers of TV and radio programmes. In response to our deep discouragement - and who is free from that - we are only offered this final right, hypocritically baptised as a sign of love.

"A recent study in the quality of life of locked-in syndrome patients found, to the astonishment of the medical profession, that when asked 'If you had a heart attack, would you want to be resuscitated?' the great majority of us answered: 'Yes.'

"All life is worth living. It can be beautiful, regardless of the state we are in. And change is always possible. . . All those who ask to die are mostly looking for love."