Tuesday, June 02, 2009
My first - as I remember - article for The Sunday Times Magazine was about euthanasia in Holland. It was commissioned by a deputy editor who had been brought in to lighten up the mag with celeb stuff. They didn't realise I had already cast my pall of gloom over the poor man. I careered around Holland in - as I remember - a VW Polo or some such, convincing myself that, beneath their bland and reasonable surface all the Dutch wanted to do was top each other. I fled, violently opposed to euthanasia. Now, of course, everybody's at it. Brits are flocking to Dignitas. Also, relatedly, there's the killing of Dr Tiller in the US. Abortion and euthanasia seem to be much on our minds. I used to be against both, but now I find it hard to care - not in a callous sense but because I don't feel it's any of my business. It's true that, ideally, dying should not be seen as a personal matter, but, on the other hand, I cannot quite see what remains to set up in opposition to the personal. Religion, of course, but we, in Britain, don't think we have that and, in America, it has been turned into a sordid shooting match. If a suffering friend was off to Dignitas with the blessing of his family, what form of counter-argument would I deploy? And I've seen enough suffering caused by handicapped children not to feel confident enough to talk anybody out of an abortion. If there is a persuasive argument against the purely personal in these matters - and I don't mean the thin end of the wedge, slippery slope type argument which is a purely practical, beside the point matter - then I'd like to hear it. Until then, every man, me included, is an island, entire of itself.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 3:46 pm