The news that Care Not Killing has launched an online petition calling on MSPs to reject the Assisted Suicide Bill (your report, 22 October) is to be welcomed.
The moral case for assisted suicide rests, essentially, on the case for autonomy. It is axiomatic in the advocates’ arguments that the individual must be the first and only judge of when the time is right for dying; and further, that this choice serves a greater good – the relief of a burden on others.
However, this is a fallacious idea. Our human identity is wrapped up with other people, especially those whom we love and serve.
In the radically individualist philosophy behind the case for assisted suicide, there is no objective value placed on life; the only value is the one I judge myself to have and the premise is that a life loses value the closer it is to death.
Once we lose the idea of life having an objective value, there is no reason why anyone should care for it.
Perhaps the most potent myth is that most deaths are painful and difficult, yet most are not. In fact, most deaths are comfortable, if spiritually and emotionally demanding on everyone involved.
Yet deaths are not, on the whole, “dignified”. Advocates of assisted suicide appeal constantly to the idea of “dignity in death” as something rational and controlled.
Dying involves renunciation, pain and many indignities. We are not in control. Furthermore, it calls forth compassion – “suffering with” – in those who love and care for the person dying.
Assisting a suicide is a corruption of compassion. A state that endorses it is creating an ominous new option which will rapidly undermine the sacred value of life itself.
Assisted suicide is a mistaken attempt to avoid pain and suffering. Rather than condemn people to unnecessary suffering, we need to enhance the quality of our care for the dying.