Picture: BBC website
Human life is back on the parliamentary agenda as the House of Lords today continues debating whether people, in certain circumstances, should have the right to die.
It’s a debate that has sparked considerable interest up and down the country, tugging at the emotions of many people who have experienced pain and suffering of loved ones. It is easy enough to find proponents of the Assisted Dying Bill among this number; people who have watched their loved ones slowly slip away, each day bringing on more pain, stretching human emotions to the absolute limit. They feel that it would be humane to end that suffering more quickly and you can understand their passion for this argument.
Yet there are many who have been in a similar position and who believe we have a duty to care for our fellow human beings and to give them every chance of life for as long as is necessary.
However, if we take a small step back and look at this a little more broadly, the beginnings of a rather alarming picture can be seen. It started with the Abortion Act 1967; a law which, in the UK at least, was supposed to be a reaction to the increasing number of botched backstreet abortions and that was to restrict abortions to the most serious cases. It was envisaged, albeit misguidedly, that the law, would actually save lives. This law, as we are all too aware, is now abused by both women and doctors to the point where there were 189,931 abortions in England & Wales in 2012, up 8% from 2001 figures. In fact, in the entire UK there have been some 8 million abortions since 1967; and this was a law that was supposed to protect human life!
Of course it is not just in the UK that abortion is a significant issue. It is an issue right across the world with the vast majority of countries making it legal.
And then we have euthanasia; the hot topic. Euthanasia has become increasingly popular in the last few years as more and more people strive to have the right to decide when they should die (as has been the case in Switzerland for some time). More and more countries are bringing in legislation to allow a person to dictate their final moments even to the point where Belgium has allowed it for children.
You now start to see the alarming picture I spoke of earlier. A picture where the margins of life are being brought closer together so that only the strong are deemed fully entitled to survive. The weak are being pushed out into the margins, to the grey area where their life is considered dispensable. And while there is no absolute compulsion on the weakest to die (except in the case of the unborn who do not have a choice) the fact that the option to die exists may create an awkward stand off between the strong and their desire to push on in life, and the weak who are holding them back.
Life is no longer seen as a gift (whether from a benevolent Creator or otherwise) but a commodity where the strong and most powerful are in control. If a woman becomes pregnant but finds herself in a situation of financial uncertainty, the state has made it very easy for her to have an abortion. If a woman becomes pregnant and there is family pressure being exerted on her to have an abortion, the state has made it very easy to do so. It may be that it simply ‘isn’t the right time’ to have a child. Again, the state has become complacent, and will allow for an abortion in such circumstances.
With euthanasia we are simply moving to the other section of life where people are at their most vulnerable….from vulnerable young people to vulnerable old people. And then you have those in between; the disabled, people with severe mental health problems, and people with conditions such as Down’s Syndrome. Suddenly these people become vulnerable to the powerful. They too slip away into the ever increasing margins of those deemed unworthy of the right to life.
Life is quickly becoming the domain of the strong. The weak, pushed out to the margins, are no longer worthy of the one basic right that surely each and every one of us is entitled to. Indeed, we are hurtling towards the point where the weakest are no longer tolerated.
Life is no longer a basic entitlement for all human beings. Rather, it has become a right only for the elite.