Monday 20 June 2011

Columnist Peter Hitchins expresses the heart of God (I believe)

This is a section of Peter Hitchins article in the Mail on Sunday which revolves around the question posed by Terry Pratchett's programme on Assisted Suicide. Radio 4 Any Answers had people ringing in saying they disliked the name Dignitas for the Swiss organisation that handled these situations. They pointed out that people who lived out the whole of their life quite often died a death of dignity also. The physical condition may seem undignified, but we are more than our bodies, and ,Christians believe, more than our minds. Apologies for the confusion between the two brothers Hitchin. Peter wrote a book outlining his conversion from secular communism to Christianity.I have amended the post title from atheist to columnist.Thanks to Jon Sidnell for this.
As if to underline Peter's comparisons with the laws on abortion, Monday's Women's Hour (beginning section) confirmed that there has recently been an increase of abortions on 40 year old women. Those in the UK can catch the programme for the next 7 days. 

This man in black is leading us to a very dark place

Peter Hitchins:
There's only one suicide I would cheerfully assist. If the Tory Party wants to go to Zurich and end it all, I will accompany it, hold its hand, help it swallow a cocktail of poison, refuse its pleas for water at the last moment (for its own good, of course) and listen to its death gurgles. It would be a mercy.

But the Tory Party is just a rather slippery and dishonest organisation. There’s nothing immoral about pushing it gently but firmly through the dark door marked ‘Exit’. In fact I’d have fewer qualms about that than I would about putting down an elderly guinea pig.

Any human being, by contrast, is immensely, uniquely valuable. We cannot kill our fellow creatures, except under very special circumstances of self-defence or deterrent justice.

And yet we do. And we will do so even more quite soon. A society that baulks fussily at the death penalty for guilty murderers has become adept at excusing the convenient killing of innocents.

Using the advanced techniques of a perverted science, we hunt down imperfect babies in the womb and kill them. Or we kill perfect babies because their birth might disrupt our comfy lives. And we tell ourselves that it is all right because our victims aren’t fully human, though in our hearts we know they are.

When the law which permits this massacre was first proposed nearly 50 years ago, we were told that it would be for exceptional and very difficult cases only. I do not know if those who campaigned for the change really believed that – but their opponents warned that it would lead to abortion on demand. And that is what happened, because that is what suited the baby-boom generation to which I belong.

Now that generation and its children (the ones who weren’t aborted) have a new fear and
a new desire. And the BBC – the voice of the boomers – has begun to express their secret concern, louder and louder. The old are a burden. They must die sooner, in the interests of the State, and of the middle-aged.

Couldn’t you see the unspoken thought – that it might be more convenient for the old and ill to be hurried into the grave – lurking behind the black-clad figure of Sir Terence Pratchett as he presented his pro-death programme at the licence-payers’ expense last week?
‘Dutch courts have held that just as the relief of suffering can justify the termination of patients who request euthanasia, it can equally justify
the termination of those who cannot.’
Sir Terence is no doubt innocent of such thoughts himself, and motivated entirely by understandable fears of his own Alzheimer’s. But there must be many homes in this country where men and women are secretly hoping that their parents will die in a reasonable, timely manner – and above all that they will not consume their inheritance with endless care-home fees before they go.

Unhappily, many of those parents may also be guiltily wondering if they should hang on to life when it means that the home they have bought over many years of careful saving may have to be sold to pay for their care, instead of being passed on to their offspring.
Meanwhile, the State is consumed with a similar fear, that the NHS may fall to pieces trying to cope with the coming wave of old people living on into their 90s and demanding ever more care, space and medicine. It is this fear that lies behind the current frenzied attempts at reform. Taxation simply will not pay for it.

I predict that if assisted suicide is made available here, it will gradually become commonplace, just as abortion did. And it will not necessarily stay voluntary. In the Netherlands, that supposed paradise of liberal thought, there are about 1,000 instances every year of a patient’s life being ended by a doctor, without an explicit request. As a brilliant analysis of the issue by Professor John Keown, of Georgetown University in Washington DC, states: ‘Dutch courts have held that just as the relief of suffering can justify the termination of patients who request euthanasia, it can equally justify
the termination of those who cannot.’

And once it is commonplace, as with abortion, those who oppose it will be a noisy but powerless minority, because so many of us will have become accomplices in kindly murder, that we will not dare to call it murder, and will get angry with those who do. But it will be murder all the same.

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