Monday, 28 November 2011

On the radar?

Last Wednesday I spent the day (well, from midday to 5 o'clock) being interviewed for a 2nd-year Film Production assignment, by three students from the University of Gloucestershire. The documentary was, predictably, a "balanced" 9-minute film on assisted suicide. I was providing the balance. It was a long afternoon.

Near the end the chap interviewing said he had two questions from one of Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society)'s extensive staff, Mylinh Cao (their press trainee). My ears pricked up at that point. I felt vaguely flattered that I featured on DiD's radar!

First question: "We've noticed that your articles don't give you the title 'Rev' nowadays. Is there a reason for this?" Answer: "a. I'm retired. b. It's no secret. c. It's irrelevant. d. It's just cheap for people to diss views with a 'He would say that, wouldn't he?' whereas the arguments are too important for that.

Second question: "Is your attitude to assisted suicide a result of your religious beliefs?" Answer: "My view is primarily based on societal reasons. It's to do with the effects on the disabled and aging. A society that doesn't value human life is in trouble. So is one that allows people to terminate each others' life. Clearly my faith in God is important and informs all my life, including my philosophy of life. But in fact everyone has a faith of some sort - whether it's in God, or in science, or in technology, or in atheism, or in nothing. We all start with presuppositions. The question is what's the substance of the arguments.

I was interested to read that Canada has its own phoney enquiry into assisted suicide which has just reported. I read this on the Secondhand Smoke blog:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 12:11 PM

Wesley J. Smith
The in-the-tank media is huffing and puffing, trying to make something important out of an entirely predictable recommendation by the Royal Society of Canada commission to legalize euthanasia.  But commissions can be created to obtain a specific result, as this one was and did.
In fact, I told you this very thing would happen two years ago, to be precise, on October 28, 2009.  Here’s the Secondhand Smoke post, “Stacking the Deck for Euthanasia in Canadian ‘End of Life’ Commission” in its entirety:”
“Expert commissions” to advise on contentious issues of public policy are usually political tools designed to come to a predetermined conclusion in order to pave the way for a desired  policy changes.  Remember that as we take a look at a new commission being appointed by the Royal Society of Canada to look into end of life issues.  From the story:
Queen’s Philosophy professor Udo Schuklenk has been selected to head a prestigious new international panel on “End-of-Life Decision Making” in Canada. Appointed by the Royal Society of Canada, the expert panel will investigate key aspects of this critical issue – including voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide – and prepare a public report.
Stories such as this never seem to look deeper than the job titles of the panelists, as if they come to their work with no preexisting positions. So, I decide to check, starting with Udo Schuklenk.  What a surprise: He’s a pro euthanasia philosopher. How do I know?  He’s said so.  For example, in an essay explaining why he is an atheist, he wrote:
No matter how unbearably patients suffer due to illness or injury toward the end of their lives, the world’s monotheistic religions stand as one in their rejection of many dying patients’ requests to end their lives in dignity. That we may well be of sound mind, and that there is no prospect of our condition improving, makes no difference to their stance. Our own considered judgment that life is not worth living any longer counts for nothing to organized monotheistic religions. According to them, we are not ethically entitled to ask for physician assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia. This is surprising, given that at the end of our natural lives churches have promised us that we would be going to heaven – or hell, as the case might be. If at the end of a decently lived life we would go to heaven and enjoy eternal life, why are they fighting our earthly death so vigorously? None of this makes any sense at all if we take religious beliefs about our afterlife seriously. Once again substantial, avoidable human suffering is a direct consequence of religious interference with our end-of-life decision-making.
I don’t care about his religious views, but to chair a panel with such a clear view in favor of assisted suicide, indicates the direction in which the commission’s recommendations are expected (designed) to go.
But perhaps I am being too cynical.  Let’s see who else is on the commission:  Ah, Scot philosophy professor Sheila McClean who wrote The Case for Assisted Suicide, a book described as arguing fervently in favor of legalization.  Hmm, I wonder how she will vote?
Another commissioner is a Dutch euthanasia researcher.  Cute.
Then there’s Jocelyn Downie, author of Dying Justice, a book urging the decriminalization of both euthanasia and assisted suicide.  The bias isn’t even subtle.
I spent some time researching the views of the two remaining members, but neither seemed to be particularly involved in the issue.  So let’s count them, at least for now, as neutrals. No matter: Even assuming both are as adamantly opposed to assisted suicide as their co panelists appear to be for it, the deck is stacked, the fix is in, 4-2 for permitting assisted suicide in at least some cases.
The next step in this Kibuki Theater will be for the media to trip over themselves to report breathlessly that “the experts” have deeply pondered, and determined–after much hand wringing, there is always hand wringing–that assisted suicide should be allowed.  It is all so scripted and predictable.
Gee, I was right.  But then, on these matters, I usually am.

Watch out for the same coming here when the so-called "Commission on Assisted Suicide" under Lord Falconer reports in the next few days or weeks. You may recall that 9/12 of the commission members had previously pronounced in favour of assisting people to die. The Commission is funded by Terry Pratchett (assisted suicide campaigner), and the brainchild of ... guess who? ... Dignity in Dying - otherwise known as ....

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