Saturday, August 01, 2009

Art and Death

Tomorrow in The Sunday Times I talk to Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, about, among other things, the miserable state of Trafalgar Square and I discuss assisted dying in the wake of the Debbie Purdy case. Links tomorrow.


  1. I'm pro-art and anti-death. Next question.

  2. I'm pro-death and anti-freeze.

    No, it doesn't add anything to the debate. But I just read the article, and I do love your interpretation of Keir Starmer's statement on the matter. :)

  3. I object to the way you quietly associate the secular society with individualism and the religious society with communal values. (Think communal - communist, they weren't very religious).

    The article gives a good insight to me in the British situation, but I find the 'slippery slope argument' to be one of defeatism.

  4. Matthew Parris once again centres the nail head in the hammers crosshairs, says it all really about the relationship betwixt individual and state.
    If H. Harman needs suicide assistance I would be prepared to step forward, within the next half hour if possible.

  5. The only solution to these two fiendishly difficult problems is to call assisted death a form of performance art and permit it within the area of Trafalgar Square.

  6. As Bryan points out at the end, to release a loved one from suffering can be seen as part of our obligations to others. Hence, a society which permits assisted suicide (under carefully defined conditions) is a more communal society than one which does not.

    Slippery slopes are endemic in any moral-legal framework, and we deal with them by cutting steps into the slope, and placing barriers at a certain position down the gradient. In this case, the law would presumably need to define the medical conditions from which assisted suicide would be a legally acceptable form of release.

    It is, of course, no surprise to find an Oxford theology professor arguing against euthanasia on the basis of slippery slope arguments. As Bryan points out "the full religious argument is seldom put as it is unpersuasive to non-believers."

  7. There is still the problem of the study of people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and lived. This is a relatively rare thing, that one would live after the jump. But, 100% of those who survive have said that they wanted to live after they jumped, even before hitting the water. This we know, that people who have attempted suicide and lived, are living among us and would be horrified at the thought of someone killing them today. The healthy impetus to life under incredible conditions is our pattern, is where we begin. And we must ask, how is it that someone is outside this pattern, rather than ask who would fit a pattern that would allow for some designated eliminator to kill them.

    The Nazis sold the Germans on euthanasia by advertising how a loved one would be spared suffering, that it was a humane thing to do. The slope they went down was to then ask what about the people who are in no position to decide for themselves? Like mental patients and children? And how about our children who are suicidal mental patients, how many of them are still alive as adults, even willing to help others through their similar very hard times, and would be horrified at the thought of dying?

    We get over it. And those of us who don't get over being suicidal need to be cared for. Prove to me that this statement is not 99.something percent applicable. Once you are 100% sure, then kill that person. This must be the assumption of our doctors. Doctors cannot, may not ever, be involved with killing people.

    We must also consider the ideas of Adolph Hitler in this regard. He noted that wartime is "the best time for the elimination of the incurably ill", because it is a time when human life is valued less (see Robert Jay Lifton's The Nazi Doctors). With the wars going on, and word of it desensitizing us through modern media outlets, it is an opportune time to push euthanasia through--with the successful propaganda, patterned after Hitler's successful advertising scheme, of selling whatever seems at first glance to be "above" any slippery slope.

    But it is a rare case that has not slipped down the wrong side already. If a woman gets killed in an "assisted" suicide, under a banner of "mercy" in Denmark, or whatever "nicey-nice" buzz words we want to propagate: what does the world care? Who can focus when people are being taken out of their lives by roadside bombs and executions by the thousands, genocide and more going on? This is the time to sell it.

    That Nazi Doctors book, by the way, offers the look at society as an organism. And the genocide and mercy killings as keeping the overall organism healthy by killing off what should not have developed into being part of it. This is how doctors justified killing people, by saying that just as they would cut off a bad arm to save the patient, they would kill people to better society. There is the Hippocratic Oath, the oath all doctors know, even the worst-case-scenario Nazi doctors knew, they must follow in order to consider themselves doctors.

    If there is a case out there that is not down the wrong side of the slippery slope, it cannot be a doctor who administers the lethal injection. It must be someone else with a different title. I suggest Life Eliminator. This itself is a litmus test of how we are being sold a "nicey-nice" bill of goods, that our very "doctors" (doctors?), whom we can all "trust", will be carrying out the "mercy" killings.


  8. I just read the piece on assisted dying - a sound analysis in my view. The rationales used by both sides tend to be flawed, but their underlying sentiments are valid. So the question becomes: which do we fear more - being kept alive against our wishes or being bummped off against our wishes?

    People are going to suffer and die either way, so maybe it's just a question of choosing the colour of their shroud?

  9. The thing Matthew Parris misses is that suicide by your own hand can easily go wrong and is often messy - there are many cases of people surviving self inflicted gunshot wounds to the head.

    And as to the bollocks in his article about Scotland - while most Scots may be economically to the left, a great many of them are frighteningly right wing on social issues. I'd be willing to bet there are more people in Scotland (per ratio) against euthanasia than in England.

  10. Sorry to act like the lonely old spinster who lives across the road and calls the police if you don't step out of your house in week but I'm beginning to get worried. You post about assisted suicide and then go very quiet...