Stopping the euthanasia juggernaut

On Tuesday I took part in a debate about euthanasia in UCD at the invitation of the Law Society. The evening was further evidence that arguments based on ‘choice’ have almost overwhelming power in the present culture.

I was teamed up with Peter D Williams of Right to Life UK, and Jason Conroy who is a student at UCD.

On the pro-euthanasia side were Tom Curran of Exit International, Louise Campbell of NUI Galway and student Connor Capplis.

I think both sides put their case well. Our side strongly emphasised that legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia will legitimise and normalise suicide itself. Suicide should be strongly discouraged. We should not be telling people who find their lives intolerably burdensome that it is ok to kill yourself, with or without the help of a doctor.

The pro-euthanasia side did not even pretend that they want to limit assisted suicide solely to those who are terminally ill. I suppose that kind of honesty is to their credit.

Obviously, their big argument was based on the idea of personal autonomy, just like in the abortion debate. They won the vote last night by about two-to-one, again just like last year.

Mind you, a student body is bound to be a lot more liberal than the general population, so hopefully opposition to euthanasia is bigger outside of UCD than inside it. But who knows, especially when RTE really gets to work and bombards the public with the hard case stories of those who want to die? Just recently, Liveline discussed the matter over a few days and almost all the voices heard were in favour of euthanasia.

In my opinion, only one group has any real chance of stopping this juggernaut, namely palliative care doctors who deal with death and dying almost everyday and almost always oppose creating a ‘right to die’. They know the pressure it will end up placing on many people to exercise this ‘right’.

I honestly cannot see who else will be able to stop the public from further succumbing to the idea that the right to choose is more important than life itself and that even the (now rapidly fading) taboo against suicide should bow before it.