Life was founded to care for women and children, and to educate young people in schools and universities from a pro-life perspective. We are not primarily a campaigning or political charity. We have traditionally tended to focus on beginning of life issues, such as abortion and embryo research, and providing education on sex and relationships.
Increasingly, however, pro-life groups and charities have come to understand that upholding respect for human life is a seamless garment, as it were, and that we must protect human life wherever it is threatened. So Life is now starting to articulate the case against euthanasia.
Life objects to euthanasia as a matter of principle. We feel that it is the wrong answer to the predicament of people who are suffering unbearably, as are most of those who persistently request euthanasia. The correct response to “unbearable suffering” is good palliative care, but all too often this is not given. When good palliative care is given, requests for euthanasia almost always stop. To those few people who are determined to kill themselves, we must say that we live in a society. The supposed rights of Individuals cannot always be allowed to dominate if the common good is endangered, as it is by euthanasia.
Assisted Dying is not simply a personal decision, as some of its supporters like to suggest; it involves families, doctors, care teams and others. Legal assisted suicide is opposed by nearly all professional medical bodies, palliative care charities, hospice care providers, and disabled rights groups.
Palliative care specialists – those who work with terminally ill people – and the large medical bodies all oppose the legalisation of euthanasia.
The legalisation of euthanasia will endanger vulnerable members of society – for example the disabled, the elderly and terminally ill people who do not want euthanasia. They may already feel like a burden and an obstruction: evidence from other countries suggests that the ready availability of euthanasia may lead to them feeling pressure to accept such a “treatment” when they do not really want it.
The new law also overturns centuries of accepted social, medical and legal practice and theory. There has been a consistent recognition that, while a few people will always resort to suicide for a variety of reasons, it is not in the common good for people to be helped to kill themselves.
We are never going to have a perfect system for dealing with people at the end of their lives. What we have to decide is the kind of imperfections we are willing to live with. For example, is it better not to kill someone who may want to die, or to kill someone who may want to live?” Once we have made killing someone a treatment option it is very difficult to draw back – that is, when we are committed to the principle that it is in some people’s interests to be killed, we cannot help but widen the circle of people who are included.
Contrary to the claims of pro-assisted suicide groups:
- Opposition to legalised euthanasia is not only for religious people. Many atheists are involved in campaigning against euthanasia.
- It is far from clear that public opinion supports legalised euthanasia – and even if most people did support it, does this necessarily mean that it is a good idea?
- Euthanasia laws have not worked well in Holland and Oregon: abuses are widespread and vulnerable people’s lives have been placed at risk.