Last week a girl passed me in the street with a t-shirt which read “Our bodies Our feelings Our rights”.
I don’t need to tell you that that is a pretty safe t-shirt to be wearing today. It’s a feisty “Pro-choice” slogan which gets its owner angry very quickly if challenged. I wanted to say to her “The reason you get to wear that t-shirt is because your mother didn’t buy that slogan” but I just walked past feeling sad about everything. To wear a “Pro-life” t-shirt is far more dangerous – and many would not walk silently by…you can be sure.
As Glynn Harrison has said in “A Better Story” we are like rabbits caught in the spotlight on the ethical issues – caught between saying something inflammatory (and scary) and saying nothing at all. We have been dumb.
So it was interesting to see a debate on euthanasia by two atheists – Sam Leith the literary editor of the Spectator and Douglas Murray the gifted author of “The Strange Death of Europe”. [Murray has argued that Europe has emptied its Christian heritage just as it has filled its immigration quota and now has been turned into a dark and dangerous place]
I am not qualified to grasp or summarise the complexities of euthanasia but many have written to equip Christians including Dr John Wyatt in his book “Matters of Life and Death”.
Wyatt makes some helpful points including:
- The phrase “The right to die” has a number of meanings – it could mean the right to refuse futile treatment or the right to refuse any treatment or the right to get help in dying. We need to clarify what is meant.
- Euthanasia can be voluntary (in some countries) or involuntary – for example a person’s brain is deranged and incapable of making a decision, an infant may have no chance of survival or a person may have dementia.
- Those who want to promote euthanasia have clever phrases (euphemisms) like “Dignity in Dying” but what does this mean – it sounds good!
- What drives the debate is often fear of pain, fear of indignity, fear of dependence etc.
- And the issue is getting lost in emotion as the vital doctrine of being made in God’s image is lost in unbelief.
So it was fascinating to see the two atheists Sam Leith and Douglas Murray debate this issue – Leith for euthanasia and Murray against it. The argument/debate went something like this:
S.L. Your body is your own to do what you want
D.M. that is just wrong humanly (since loved ones and community are affected by what you do)
S.L. I find euthanasia easier than abortion because abortion involves another person – euthanasia is just you.
D.M. wherever countries (like Belgium and Netherlands) go to step one (legalised euthanasia) they quickly go to step two [children are given power to speed up the process, some who are mentally ill are unable to protect themselves and some decide to die feeling pressure to leave or even because they are ‘tired of life’]
S.L. are you saying we shouldn’t have step one in case step two follows?
D.M. if step two is destructive and inevitable the answer is ‘yes’,
Then Murray moves into fascinating territory. He introduces the “sanctity of life” (as an atheist?!) meaning life is not just important it’s “everything”. And he goes on to say that countries that lose the sanctity of life cannot recapture it and lose the priority to “choose life”.
In other words he wants what God’s word tells us is true! ”whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed – for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen 9:6)
Of course we don’t want people to suffer. But palliative care has never been better (and Murray says it gets lost when easy death gets hold of society).
There is a reason the anchor of protecting life is so important. It prevents the drift to the rocks of a thousand evils.
And we can make a single but profound contribution to the discussion by simply saying that the slippery slope is not just a theory here – it’s a reality.
The t-shirt might say “Step one looks easy but step two is a real disaster”. Let’s not be dumb.
Yours in fellowship