Friday, 27 September 2013

The Paralympian and the Professor

I was very glad to read in this article, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Stephen Hawking, that the professor's advocacy of assisted suicide has been intelligently challenged.  Having ALS/MND like him, I'd been disappointed to hear he'd changed his mind about it, and had thought I should write some rebuttal. However I suspect her comment carries more weight and certainly will be more noticed.

One hears all too often the "I'd put my pet out of its misery" comparison propounded by the pro-euthanasia lobby, as an example of compassion. In fact, as Dame Tanni points out, it's all too likely to be the reverse, an example of objectification. Our dog, Jess, whom we like very much, is in her sixteenth year now. Reflecting on our decision to have her put down, whenever we'll choose to make it, I reckon it will based on factors such as her becoming incontinent and incurring increasing vets' bills and probably ceasing to give us pleasure. Those are all issues to do with us and our feelings and convenience and wallets. The dog has become an object - which, to be blunt, is the relation nearly every pet has towards its owner. Human beings are different.

Dame Tanni in her racing days
I suppose a physicist may be forgiven for regarding his body as no more than a sophisticated machine or computer, to switched off and scrapped when it goes wrong or no longer serves a useful purpose. But it appears that an athlete knows better.

Human beings are not merely animals or machines. They are subjects, not objects.

"So why not allow them to choose the time of their death?" I've been asked. "Why not let them say, 'I've had enough. I want to end it all'?" I hear that question, but the professor's comparison and the paralympian's answer provide part of the answer: it opens the way to the reduction of life to something we own rather than something of which we are a part. It pushes the door ajar for others putting pressure on us to euthanise ourselves, when we get messy to care for, expensive to treat, and not good company. When that becomes the way we think about ourselves then we have lost sight of the fact the life is our greatest gift, "from life's first cry to death's final breath".

(Do read Dame Tanni's article in which she also writes about Lord Falconer's approaching House of Lords' bill, his latest attempt to legalise assisted suicide, and if you have a tame peer you might write to her or him to say what you think of it.)

1 comment:

  1. Psalm 139
    1. David is in awe of God's handiwork. He marvels at how he has been created in his mother's womb. What does this mean for how we are to perceive others? Regardless of disablility, belief, skin colour or ethnic group, the Lord has been at work in each of our "creations" in the womb. And on a personal level, belief that God has fashioned us into something that is wonderful cannot help but deeply impact the way we perceive ourselves and our own sense of self-worth.
    I find it deeply humbling that those who are less physically able, ‘dis abled’ if you like, are gifted with deep courage, tenacity and perseverance. Some are like this from their Mother’s womb; others through developments or accidents in life.
    Dame Tanni’s article is wonderful and illustrates her faith, courage and perseverance.
    Never would I wish to go down the road of assisted dying.
    I have to acknowledge though, that I am a coward and afraid of becoming unable to do things. I constantly admire the courage and humour of a Resident here. She is entirely bedridden and dependent on others but I have never heard her complain. She is undemanding and has a terrific sense of humour.
    Lord Falconer, do you really understand what you are doing?