Thursday, October 07, 2010

You do not have a "right" to "chose your time of death"

The pro-Euthanasia lobby is inventing human rights, just as the pro-homosexual lobby is. The latter is inventing the "human right" for same-sex attracted persons to "marry", and the former is inventing a "human right" to "choose one's time of death".

If the language of "human rights" is not to become a devalued currency, we must agree that you can't just mint brand-new shiny "human rights" according to whim. The Catholic Church teaches that true "human rights" are those that arise from the dignity of what it means to be human. Of course, the question there is "what does it mean to be human?" and that is where the argument starts. It is an argument for a different time. But one thing we can say for now is that part of the definition of "human dignity" has to do with the human being as a social being, and with human community. An out-of-control libertine individualism is not good for human society and thus "my business and no-one else's" cannot be cited as a basis for a "human right".

In relation to this, I wish to draw your attention to this article in The Australian today: "Choosing one's time of death is a basic human right", by Nigel Gray (former director of the Cancer Council of Victoria). He writes:
I AM distressed by the confusion and disgruntlement surrounding the discussion of euthanasia. Even the admirable Paul Kelly gets it wrong (The Australian, September 29). He refers to euthanasia as "legalised killing", implying that those who support euthanasia want someone to do something to someone else. The word kill occurs seven times. If we take away the labels such as euthanasia, kill, murder, suicide, we can look at the issues.

I disagree very strongly. If you take out these words - which are NOT "loaded" words, or fuzzy words, but words that are clear and have a deliberate and objective meaning - THEN you in fact obscure the issues rather than clarify them.
The people who join the Dying with Dignity movement simply want to die with dignity. This ought to be possible under Victorian law, but it is not surprising that people want to be sure of getting their wishes.

To die with dignity is, I would agree, a "human right" - but in a secondary sense: ie. everyone is entitled to that "dignity" which is due to them because they are a human being in BOTH life and death. The question is: what do you mean by "dignity" in this context? Japanese warriors and Jihadist Terrorists both had/have ideas about what a "dignified" death is. We disagree with both their accounts. We disagree with Nigel Gray's too.
My wishes are also simple. I want the right to choose the place and time of my own death. I do not want to transfer the responsibility to someone else. The place will be in my own bed, with Louis Armstrong playing in the background. The time: not yet imminent.

The "someone else" who has the choice of the place and time of one's death is not a human being. Whether you believe in God or not, no human being - including oneself - has a "right" to chose when and where they will die. The very unpredictability of death is one of its greatest mysteries, but we do not have a "right" to solve that mystery by taking our own life or the life of others.
The whole thing could be much simpler and less disturbing if, for example, the law allowed the following two options. All that follows necessarily requires everyone involved to be willing participants. No one could or should be forced to participate, and the service should be free.
Ah yes. If only that difficult and disturbing thing we call "death" could be made "simpler and less disturbing"... Note that "could" and "should" are, of course, two different things.
Option one: The person (I have not said patient) presents to the nearest (willing) pharmacist a form signed and witnessed (as is any will or power of medical attorney) that requests the pharmacist to provide a lethal dose of Nembutal with instructions for use. The person goes home and takes it. At the moment, the family then has to waste the time of a practitioner to certify death and the coroner has to inquire to see that someone was not murdered.
"Waste the time of a practicioner"? "not said patient"? Is he in fact arguing for the right of any and all human beings to commit suicide whenever and for whatever reason they choose? If this it is indeed a "human right" for all human beings to decide the place and time of their death and to carry it out by their own action, does this not mean that it is immoral to try to prevent suicide?
Option two: A charitable organisation, called the Earthly Angel Service, accommodates the person's wishes. The person provides a form, signed and witnessed as above. The EAS then provides an authorised (registered and licensed) staff member who has some simple skills, and an independent witness. The EAS visitor: Slips a needle into a vein and sets up an intravenous drip. Draws up a lethal dose of morphia and slips the needle into the drip. Hands the syringe to the person. The person, not anyone else, presses the plunger of the syringe. The morphia flows and permanent sleep follows. The EAS visitor then determines that death has occurred and provides a death certificate. With such a law, no one else is required to do something to someone else.
"Earthly Angel Service"? Note that the article is headed with the by-line "EMOTIONAL terms obscure the facts of euthanasia". If this isn't "emotional", I don't know what is. Anyway, such an "angel" would be nothing other than an "Angel of Death". And what kind of "charity" would this be? Not the kind that Church understands. Not the kind of "charity" that the good Samaritan showed.
All the labels are pejorative and obscure the real issues: individual choice, no transfer of responsibility to another person (which is, after all, a tough responsibility to transfer), no bureaucracy, and no need for a terminal disease, so no need for a doctor.
As I said: Suicide as a "human right". Gray is certainly in a "gray" area here. The result would be a moral obligation on everyone to do everything we can to assist the suicidal to achieve their aims. Also note the emphasis on "choice" and "individual". We have seen this before in the abortion debate, we see it again here. Remember: since a human being is a social and communal being, "individualism" cannot provide a basis for determining true human dignity.
The reason for wanting choice is that this is one's own business, no one else's. We should not have to give reasons. It may indeed be a terminal disease and one may have consulted a doctor, or one may have gone bankrupt, or the wrong team may have won the grand final, but these are not relevant to anyone else. A personal decision, which is made as a human right, is all that is required. The necessary legislation should be simple enough.
Sorry mate. It isn't your own business. "No man is an island", and all that stuff. This is individualism taken to an extreme. It is the death of human society. Gray and his ilk are inventing a new "human right" and yes, I want him to give REASONS why he thinks suicide is a "human right".


At Thursday, October 07, 2010 5:35:00 pm , Anonymous Tom said...

An excellent point; now to convince the last 2 centuries of human history that individualism is not a valid basis for the meaning of human...

At Thursday, October 07, 2010 6:41:00 pm , Anonymous Tony said...

There in lies the rub, Tom.

David's post was good but, IMO, it was preaching to the choir. Once you get to '... according to whim ...' I suspect you've lost anyone except those who agreed with you in the first place.

It's not just individualism either. We live in a culture that bends over backwards to relieve suffering. So many of us are in an almost permanent state of anesthesia or, at the smallest sign of pain, stand ready to reach for the pill jar.

It is a naturaly human reaction to not want to see people suffering and modern medicine has meant that for most people suffering is not necessary. When we are confronted with the suffering of a loved one who is dying, it is not just a 'whim' that motivates us to want that to stop.

But you're right in the sense that the march of individualism, combined with the medicalisation of (almost) everyday life -- not to mention the beginning and end of life -- makes the argument against euthanasia that much more difficult.

At Thursday, October 07, 2010 9:07:00 pm , Anonymous Louise said...

Put simply, a "right to die" is not compatible with "a right to live."

Also, my right to live means your obligation not to kill me. Good.

But if I have a right to die then someone else has an obligation to kill me. Anyone can see why that's bad.

Rights always confer an obligation upon others and that's why we can't go making them up.

At Thursday, October 07, 2010 9:21:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

Yes, the connection between "rights" and "responsibilities" has often been discussed. However, one thing that is not often noticed is that it is this very connection between "my rights" and "your responsibilities" (or vice versa) that demonstrates the communitarian or social nature of the language of "rights". Without a social context, a context where I am in some relationship with someone else, the language of rights has no meaning. Therefore, to posit an extreme individualism as the basis of "human rights" is ultimately self defeating.

At Thursday, October 07, 2010 10:54:00 pm , Anonymous Tony said...

NB: Perhaps by way of a warning, the Insight program is tough viewing but I do think it addresses the reality of this topic.

At Friday, October 08, 2010 12:10:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

What is the reality of someone intentionally ending someone life against God's will?

At the end of the day as Christians surely after all the gobbly-gook about the issue being presented as 'complex', the ultimate conclusion is that things are pretty simple - it is a grave wrong.

At Friday, October 08, 2010 2:57:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

The church still says society has a right to execute a criminal?

When did the 'Church' last SAY that?

At Friday, October 08, 2010 3:11:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

So, did you watch the program, Gareth?

Did you see a lot of gobbledegook and simple choices?

At Friday, October 08, 2010 3:14:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

These are important issues. It is also important - for the sake of clear thinking - to maintain in theory the distinction between motivation and the objective nature of an act. In Church teaching, in order for an action to be a "sin", the intention of the one doing the act must be sinful. It is conceivable therefore than an action which in itself is not "intrinsically evil" may become a "sin" when done with sinful motivation. On the other hand, acts which in themselves are "morally grave matter" or "objectively disordered/evil" remain so even if the intention of the one doing the act is not sinful. We are able, ethically, to judge the objective moral quality of an act, even if we are unable (and in fact forbidden) to judge the one who is doing the act (because we do not know their motivation). Thus we can say of someone who kills another person that they have committed murder (courts judge these kinds of things all the time), but not judge the state of a person's soul vis a vis the question of sin (which is God's domain, not ours).

At Friday, October 08, 2010 3:59:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

It is interesting that those who framed this passage thought that the phrase "teaching of the Church" required a qualifier "traditional" in front of it.

It is almost as if they were trying to say "Yes, we know we cannot deny that the Church has traditionally taught the right of the State to use the death penalty, but given that the necessity of capital punishment is almost non-existent and given the great value that the Church places on human life in her social doctrine, today the Church cannot be said to support this form of punishment."

At Friday, October 08, 2010 4:04:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

But the doctor is obliged to assist the person making the request for an abortion to attain it by referral. And in any case, this is not entirely analogous, as in fact the State of Victoria has not yet fully defined an abortion as a woman's "human right". It simply shows the direction in which it could tend, not where things have yet ended up.

Let me suggest to you that the idea of people being able to "opt out" of assisting another human being to attain what is truly a "human right" is problematic. IF it is conceded that someone may legitimately have a conscientious objection to carrying out a particular "service" for another human being, then that "service" cannot strictly be regarded as a "human right".

At Friday, October 08, 2010 4:58:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Actually, I think this is a real case of the Church (not the Catechism writers - the catechism is an accurate account of the Church's current teaching) trying very hard to be consistent where in the past it could have been accused of inconsistency. Against the background of the horrors of the 20th Century, the Church has amplified its pro-life teachings, its teaching on the dignity of every human life, no matter what their creeds, actions, moral character etc. may be. It was not possible to amplify this side of the Church's teaching without questioning to some degree the traditional support of capital punishment. The solution to the dilema was to continue to uphold the teaching that capital punishment exercised by authentic authority is licet, while introducing a new note of caution concerning whether it is desirable or even necessary.

At Friday, October 08, 2010 10:24:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

It may have been John Paul II's "personal opinion" but its inclusion in the Catechism - a document of magisterial authority, and not simply a compendium of doctrines put together by an unauthorised editor - means that what was John Paul II's "opinion" is now Catholic teaching. Furthermore, although I do not want to suggest that broad acceptance of a teaching of the Church by the Catholic faithful is a criteria which establishes the authority of the Church's teaching, it does confirm that the Holy Father's judgement and the Catechism's teaching is correct in this circumstance.

At Friday, October 08, 2010 11:42:00 pm , Anonymous Tony said...


I've quoted the CCC, where have your 4 points come from? References please.

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 12:02:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

You miss the point in your analogy, Tony. Society has a right to execute criminal, but society is not obliged to do so. IOW "X" has a right, but "X" does not have an obligation.

But I was saying, if "X" has a right then "Y" has an obligation. There's the difference.

I'm saying that rights, of necessity, always place obligations on others. Always. It's in the nature of a right.

If you have a right to die, Tony, then *someone* (not necessarily me) *must* kill you. They must.

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 12:11:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

it’s not a strong argument anyhow because it’s so speculative.

Well, any time euthanasia is mentioned people talk about the suffering of the person and the suffering of the people watching the person. So, it's not that speculative. But even granted that the motives and emotions of the people and the sufferer cannot be known, the arguments for euthanasia are always about trying to solve the problem of pain. Whether it's our pain or the patient's pain is neither here nor there, the principle still holds: that we cannot kill innocent people to solve our problems. (Even if that innocent person is ourself).

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 12:15:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

I get the impression that the Church is saying that, given the recent atrocities of the 20th Century, it's probably best if capital punishment be generally avoided, though it is morally permissable.

I have now reached a point where I believe capital punishment is morally permissable (and even perhaps required for the common good), but given that Caesar seems to be suffering early onset dementia, I'm not sure I really trust him with this power.

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 12:18:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

The Church is not saying in the CCC that capital punishment is immoral, so there's really no problem here, is there?

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 12:21:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

IOW all you've shown is that a "right to die" is not a right at all.

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 12:21:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

Then it is not a right, is it? How can it be, if no-one will fulfill this right?

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 12:35:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

Phew! To quote my daughter when she was a toddler, 'this makes me a headache!'

I have the right to vote.

Does that mean another citizen, or someone acting as an agent of the state, has an obligation to take me to the polling booth and, if necessary, force me to exercise my right?

The only thing I'm obliged to do -- and even then the sanction's not exactly onerous -- is to turn up and have my name crossed off.

That doesn't make my right to vote any less than a right. Yes?

At Saturday, October 09, 2010 8:11:00 pm , Anonymous Tony said...

'While the Church exhorts civil authorities to to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about applying the death penalty,
(but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia).'

This, to me, is where the church presents a confusion to world (not just the so-called 'faithful').

A consistent, coherant, culturally challenging ethic of life is something I think is capable of being understood and accepted on its merits, not by recourse to spurious notions of 'biblical tradition' (have you read Leviticus lately?) or other specifically religious reasoning.

On that basis, the CCC is quite consistent, whereas the quote above from Ratzinger muddies the waters.

When you add that to the fact that in the US -- a place with a well-resourced and well-established legal system founded on the presumption of innocence -- estimates of around 10 per cent of death penalty victims are later found to be innocent, the kind of wiggle-room Ratzinger offers is incomprehensible. (And that's not even considering the legal systems of other death penalty champions like China and Saudi Arabia!)

Abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty do have in common one fundamental thing and that is that they are about one human taking the life of another as a deliberate, considered choice.

Beyond a 'clear and present danger' self defence argument in terms of the death penalty, the arguments for each of these life issues should be the same and prosecuted with the same vigour.

At Sunday, October 10, 2010 6:37:00 am , Anonymous Tom said...

I think what Louise is trying to point out is that the language of rights makes sense when we talk about it in regards to those things that NNLT talks about as 'the basic goods.' The basic goods (a list of 7, such as life, sociability, knowledge etc.) are defended as "basic reasons for acting" - IOW, all actions, at heart, are for one of these 7 'goods'.

Rights that protect things like 'life' (do not kill me) or 'sociability' (do not compel me to associate against my will), or even religion (do not compel me to worship against my will), make sense in that they oblige others to respect you in regards to their own action.

The problem with talking about a 'right to die' (as the euthanasia argument is going) is that it confuses the language of rights, because what it really wants to do is co-opt the legitimacy of a right without it actually being a right (in the intelligible sense of the word).

Rights, as Louise pointed out compel action from another. One's right to life compels others not to kill them. When we start stretching the language of rights to the point that we talk about things like 'a right to die' we change the intelligibility of the term 'right' because what a right is, at heart, (once more as Louise pointed out) is a compulsion on others. If I have a right to be free to associate, then the government has a legitimate case to compel others (with force if necessary) to prevent me being forced to associate against my will.

A right to die suggests that the government has a legitimate case to compel, with force if necessary, the actions of a person to execute another. To use the language of rights in the context of Euthanasia is disorienting, because while it can be seen on the surface as being a 'right' it is only because the language of rights has been distorted.

A right can only be intelligible if we can attach a corresponding obligation to it; my right to life, your obligation not to kill me, and so on. A right to die cannot be intelligible, unless we are willing to say that if someone wants to die, our society (that means a citizen in our society) is compelled to kill that person. That is what a right to die MUST necessarily mean. Otherwise it is not (as Louise pointed out) a right in the intelligible sense of the word. A right must have something attached to it, if it is to be more than a rhetorical device.

At Monday, October 11, 2010 12:44:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

You said it all much better than me, Tom!

At Monday, October 11, 2010 12:49:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

Yes, it is frustrating, Gareth. Capital punishment is in a separate class from abortion and euthanasia. I don't mind people being against capital punishment, but when they start to speak as though Catholics must be against it, then I get cross.

At Monday, October 11, 2010 6:31:00 pm , Anonymous Tom said...

Ah not at all - your ideas were perfectly clear, I just was interested in exploring the idea.

At Monday, October 11, 2010 9:42:00 pm , Anonymous Gareth said...

I will be laughing when the CCC gets updated in a few years time and that sentence is deleted.

At Monday, October 11, 2010 10:59:00 pm , Anonymous Louise said...

"is a separate class (or kind) OF issue"

At Monday, October 11, 2010 10:59:00 pm , Anonymous Louise said...

I have no idea what ‘separate class’ means in this context. A life is a life. A life at its beginnings, its end, or in the middle (guilty or innocent) has the same ‘class’, ie, it’s sacred.

It's another class of problem, not a class of person. A person who commits a serious crime being punished by being executed is a separate class (or kind) or issue to that of a (legally) innocent person being killed.

It only weakens the pro-life position in a society like ours, in which people are not taught to think clearly.

What I really can't understand is how the average gliberal can support abortion, but oppose the death penalty. E.g not support the death penalty for rapists, but effectively support the death penalty for the children of rapists.

At Monday, October 11, 2010 11:18:00 pm , Anonymous Gareth said...

To the tradition of the dust bin soon, like all Vatican II novelties that didnt quite work.

At Thursday, October 14, 2010 12:47:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Don't hold your breath, Gareth.

At Tuesday, November 02, 2010 8:57:00 am , Anonymous Hello said...

You disgust me. That is all


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home