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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Euthanasia - again!

I do hope that the proponents of euthanasia, or assisted dying, or mercy killing or whatever euphemism may be used for the deliberate taking of a human life (the word 'murder' does come to mind!) have taken full heed of the news, today, that a certain Dr Howard Martin has admitted to "hastening" the deaths (now there's a nice little euphemism to add to those already in vogue!) of dozens of his former patients - and not always with any consent from anyone!

This, of course, has long been one of the expressed concerns of those of us who are opposed to any attempt to legalise euthanasia. Regardless of how much those who support such a move may give assurances that it would only be in very strictly controlled situations that such an act would take place, the reality is that there would always be those who would take liberties that were never intended. It is interesting that the 2009 Netherlands' euthanasia statistics show a continuing increase in reported cases of euthanasia - some 45% since 2003! As far as I understand the Dutch situation, a doctor decides on whether or not to end a person's life on the objective basis of deciding the subjectivity of 'unbearable pain'!

Over the years, I have spent a fair bit of time, in a pastoral context, with those who were nearing the end of their physical lives. Some were at home; some were in hospital; some were in a hospice. In every case, I was impressed by the palliative care that they received - in not one, did I hear of a request to 'end it all now'!

It is, of course, a subject that will continue to be highly controversial, and that will give rise to emotive words from those on either side of the debate. However since, in the U.K., we consider ourselves to be civilised because we have abolished the death penalty for convicted murderers - even those whose conviction is unquestionably right - we should be careful not to rush into providing death to those who, in a particular moment, request it. As I have often stated before - it is an irreversible decision!

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