Marlowe's Shade

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Baby Boomer Death Manifesto

In his op-ed piece in The Guardian Richard Smith gives us the unabashed party line of his generation's secular take on the meaning of life and death.

He starts by confirming my suspicion that the right-to-die movement has an "war of attrition" strategy in pushing euthanasia in the UK:

In 1978 I published one of my first articles in a medical journal - on abortion. It prompted howls of protest, and so did every article on abortion for the next 10 years. But slowly the protesters, some of them very well organised, ran out of steam. We moved - do I dare say progressed? - over a 50-year time scale from refusing termination of pregnancy in a woman whose life was threatened by pregnancy to, effectively, abortion on demand.

I feel I'm watching a similar progression with euthanasia. Len Doyal, "one of Britain's top medical ethicists", arguing that active euthanasia can be acceptable is another step along the path. Len may be in the vanguard, but much of the population is close behind. Other countries and states - the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Oregon, the Northern Territories - are ahead, but surely a post-religious country like Britain will quickly follow. Lord Joffe's bill on physician-assisted suicide may have been put on ice, but it'll soon be warmed up.

His claim is that in the UK the push is by "the people", but I think it is more accurate to say that it is the boomer hive-mind that is represented by the media:

The progression is mostly led not by doctors or ethicists, but - as it should be - by the people. Why not euthanasia, many think. "I don't want to hang around demented, incontinent, a burden, incapable of joy. I'll get out while the going's relatively good. I'll not be shoved in one of those miserable homes. I'll call the shots." This view is becoming particularly strong as the "baby boomers" confront their deaths. We've had much more privileged lives - and much more choice - than our parents, and we'd like to keep it that way to the end.

That last line is a classic.

Smith says the guiding principle of boomers is autonomy, or as Frank Sinatra would say, doin' it "my way". However that autonomy doesn't extend to the doctors that they require to participate in their perceived right to an autonomous death:

Doctors (and the Pope) have always seen a difference between active killing and either "masterly inactivity" that culminates in death or giving people a high quantity of a drug to help relieve symptoms knowing that the dosage will kill them. Philosophers generally don't see a difference. But it's the doctors and not the philosophers who are doing (or not doing) the business, and they feel they have special rights. One response has been to suggest "philosopher assisted suicide". You don't need to know much medicine to hand somebody a lethal cocktail.

And there's the rub. It's OK to kill yourself. Why shouldn't a doctor help you out? Isn't that what doctors are supposed to do? Aren't we meant to be creating a "patient-led NHS"?

In other words, just do it our way...
papijoe 9:33 AM