The perennial political football - Credit, public domain

If we were to have a logically confused reaction to the Gosport Hospital mess – where the NHS was regularly topping people just for being, well, people – we’d rather expect it to come from someone in The Guardian, probably Polly Toynbee in fact. For the National Health Service can do no wrong, unless deprived of the necessary resources by Tory Austerity, plus there’s a definite stinking remnant of the old socialist eugenics arguments floating around the place. Polly Toynbee being rather the grande dame of both mindsets as well as the GD of that newspaper.

Polly Toynbee does not disappoint:

A proper right-to-die law is the only way to prevent another Gosport

There’s a certain problem with the argument really. The opposition – OK, mine – to voluntary euthanasia is the risk that it will morph into involuntary such. Yes, it’s a slippery slope argument, one that is a logical fallacy. But it’s only a logical fallacy if there is an insistence that because a therefore b. Because a therefore I think b more likely, let’s go look for examples, is not a fallacy at all. This is a view I share with Natalie Solent. My part of it being that if we get to the stage that people can ask to be killed then there’s going to be an awful lot of pressure put upon the inconvenient, expensive and just unwanted to so ask. Plus a not so gentle morphing into others making that decision.

Where euthanasia is both allowed and approved of – I have Holland and Belgium in my mind here – that does seem to be the way it has gone. Doctors performing that mercy act without actually bothering to find out whether it is desired or not. You know, they’re doctors, right?

Still, Polly gives it a go:

Needless to say, right-to-die opponents have been quick to use the Gosport scandal. “How many thousands could have their ‘lives shortened’ unlawfully when assisted suicide becomes legal?” asks one prominent Christian blogger.

The difference between unwanted death and assisted suicide can be encapsulated in one word: choice. It’s the difference between a woman’s right to choose abortion, and the Chinese state dragging her off to abort a baby against her will under the one-child rule. The right to die is the last frontier in a long battle to take control of our own beings, our bodies, our life and death. The lesson of Gosport is that patronising, insensitive outsiders, whether doctors or legislators, do not have the right to make these decisions for us. Many, faced with terminal illness, choose to savour every last minute of life, even in pain. Others don’t. That choice is well-understood by the 82% who have for years strongly supported the right to die.

I might disagree with some or all of that but I can at least understand it. This I cannot:

Those who, mainly for religious reasons, claim it would be a slippery slope to Gosport-style dangers, deliberately ignore how a law would prevent another Gosport, with proper regulation bringing transparency to end-of-life treatment. Legislation advocated by the organisation Dignity in Dying would allow terminally ill patients in their final months, and mentally competent, to choose – with the oversight of two independent doctors and a high court judge – a quicker death. Personally, I would go further and legislate for a living will to end our lives if dementia takes hold, so our competent selves can act as custodian for our future incompetent selves: a guarantee to avoid humiliating mental collapse.

The best answer to Gosport is legal clarity to protect vulnerable people and let the fully alert escape a lingering death.

Having a law against topping people against their will prevents people being topped against their will.

To which the answer is we’ve currently got a law against topping people against their will, the very point that we’re talking about now is that it didn’t stop people being topped, did it? And we’ve no evidence at all, rather the contrary in fact, that allowing people who wish to be topped to force someone to do that is going to reduce the number involuntarily sent to the mortuary.

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  1. A slippery slope has been clearly demonstrated by numerous campaigns on ‘social’ issues, because those who campaign for them are insatiable. We start by decriminalising homosexuality and end by criminalising those who choose not to bake a cake for a gay wedding. We start with abortion requiring medical justification certified by two doctors and end with abortion on demand. If we start with euthanasia for “terminally ill patients in their final months […] with the oversight of two independent doctors and a high court judge”, we will reach Logan’s Run in a few decades. You have been warned.

    • I agree entirely on the “slippery slope.” LGBTQs, after winning tax parity, returned in the next legislature demanding legal certification, and now exemption from hearing disapproval and from consequences of their own actions, a self-selecting eternal Victim Class.

      Polly trots out the hoary “a woman’s right to choose abortion.” But even this free choice now involves payment seized from taxpayers, including from some who regard it as murder.

      I believe we all own our own bodies, and that ownership includes disposal. But there are no real rights in a country where “health care is a human right.” Advocates will come back next term asking why not make the Right to Die easier, on old people who have become a burden. To lower the budget deficit, mind you.

  2. I do think there might be a way to avoid a lot of the problems of the slippery slope. Keep it out of the hands of doctors. Should be a service performed by a skilled technician on the request of the service buyer. Why would you need a doctor? You’re not trying to cure a health problem.

  3. “..if we get to the stage that people can ask to be killed then there’s going to be an awful lot of pressure put upon the inconvenient, expensive and just unwanted to so ask.”

    And perhaps the ideologically-driven too?

    The “love the NHS” crowd would disappear rather quickly, one way or another you’d imagine, once offered a rather neat way to display their unconditional affection for that institution.

  4. I think one way voluntary euthanasia might assist is then doctors would be *allowed* to ask. At present where a nurse might think the patient wants to die they cannot afford to ask. So the bad ones take it upon themselves, which is murder.

    I agree with BiS. Doctors and nurses should have no part in it. Their role is to keep people alive, and they cannot do that if they are active in killing people.