Euthanasia — in the name of love, dignity and freedom?

EDW
October 16, 2017

  Roxana Stanciu

“I am a disabled person and I don’t back the ‘right to die’ for one very important reason.” This is the title of an important new article published in The Independent on the 5th of October.  The author, James Moore, suffers from severe physical disabilities, and is reliant upon drugs and medical interventions in order “to be able to live” and make his pain manageable. Despite this, he opposes the notion of the so-called ‘right to die’.

An event entitled “Dignified End-of-Life in Europe” took place in the European Parliament (EP) on the 12th of October. It was hosted by Hilde Vautmans, a Belgian Member of the European Parliament and member of the ALDE (Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe) political group in the EP. Five representatives of organisations promoting euthanasia in Europe were present. The purpose of the event was to promote the idea of a “dignified end of life as a human right” and to find ways of guaranteeing it.

 

Euthanasia in the name of love?

At the moment, physician assisted dying is legally permitted in four European countries: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. According to Hilde Vautmans MEP, these countries “love their citizens more” [emphasis ours], which leads to a more “positive approach” to dying. The question is: how is this type of love expressed? Common sense says that loving someone means to be at his/her side and give them the best possible care. People need love mostly when they are weak and vulnerable. How can telling someone who is in a vulnerable position that it would be better for him/her not to be alive be considered ‘an act of love’?

James Moore, the author of the article cited above, states that “[u]nfortunately, we happen to live in a society that does not value such [disabled] people. It discriminates them, often with the connivance of politicians, and through the utilisation of gaps in the law.”

 

No so-called right to die under international law

The idea of promoting the ‘right to die’ as a basic human right was strongly emphasized by the supporters of euthanasia during the event in the EP. Vautmans and the representatives of pro-euthanasia organisations stressed the fact that the ‘right to die’ should be seen as a ‘human right’— so that a person’s desire to end his/her life be respected and supported.

However, this idea of having the ‘right to die’ as a basic human right is in stark contradiction with international law. Such a right is non-existent. Rather, international law protects everyone’s right to life and requires the state to protect the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “[e]veryone has the right to life”. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “[e]very human being has the intrinsic right to life. This right shall be protected by law”.

 

Choosing euthanasia based on subjective feelings?

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “[a]ll human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.  A person has an inherited dignity, regardless of whether he/she is healthy, sick, disabled, or suffering. Each human life thus has intrinsic value, no matter what.

However, another argument used to advance euthanasia has to do with the idea of dying with dignity. Dr. Dieter Birnbacher, the president of a German organisation promoting euthanasia, has emphasized the fact that the personal feelings of human dignity should be taken into consideration when promoting euthanasia. In other words, if a person feels that his/her human dignity is affected in any way, he/she should be able to be free to choose euthanasia. But how can such an important decision as the ending of one’s life be based on subjective feelings?

James Moore, the writer from The Independent, says that “[t]he number of people wanting medical assistance to help them die is actually rather small. The number of disabled people fighting desperate battles to live in the face of official indifference, if not active contempt, is huge.”

 

No, we do not need to promote euthanasia in Europe

One of the conclusions of the event in the EP were reflected in the words of  Vautmans, who said that: “We need to fight for the decriminalisation of euthanasia in Europe.” She said she wants to convince other countries in Europe to pay attention to the topic.

In an article that EDW published earlier this year, it was observed that

today’s arguments in favour of legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide are no longer just focused on the elimination of unbearable suffering. Instead, there is an ongoing attempt to change the phenomenon of dying — from something that simply happens to all of us, and which is fundamentally not in our control (in terms of its timing), to something that is planned and carried out on our own terms.

When a society starts to adopt this type of approach, it eventually affects the way people view not just death but life as well. The total elimination of suffering from our lives ends up being seen as extremely beneficial.  Thus, in the name of eliminating suffering, and by relying on concepts like ‘love’ and ‘freedom to choose’, we see that the sufferer is him or herself eliminated.

By making euthanasia and assisted suicide easily available, a very clear message is sent to society: that it is better to be dead than in pain or disabled. This is the very top of a slippery slope — and it could eventually lead to the involuntary euthanasia of people considered ‘undesirable’, ‘too expensive’, or ‘a burden on society’.

In the article for The Independent, Moore concludes: “I know how that feels. If you’re living with disabilities, a law to facilitate assisted suicide feels like the thin end of the wedge, the opening up of a crack in the dam that protects us against something very dark.”