Giles Fraser notes that choice in dying has a lot of public support. He bravely dissents from this public support. He says why.
These days, people say they want to die quickly, painlessly in their sleep and without becoming a burden. Apparently, this is what a good death now looks like. Well, I want to offer a minority report.
I do want to be a burden on my loved ones just as I want them to be a burden on me – it’s called looking after each other. Obviously, I know people are terrified of the indignity of dying and of being ill generally. Having someone wipe our bums, clean up our mess, put up with our incoherent ramblings and mood swings is a threat to our cherished sense of personal autonomy.
But this is where the liberal model of individual self-determination breaks down. For it is when we are this vulnerable that we have little choice but to allow ourselves to be loved and looked after. Lying in a bed full of our own faeces, unable to do anything about it, is when we break with the idea of René Descartes’ pernicious “I think therefore I am”.
Stupid, stupid, stupid man. I know he can’t be stupid really, but my god what a stupid thing to say. If he wants to be helpless and let loved ones care for him, then he can choose that (provided the loved ones exist and agree). The issue is not mandatory help in dying, it’s the ability to choose it if you choose it. If and only if. Where does he get the fucking arrogance to think that because he thinks a slow painful helpless shit-the-bed death is the way to go, therefore the choice to say no to that should remain illegal for everyone?
I know where he gets it, I suppose; he gets it from being a priest, which brings with it a mental certificate of moral rightness. He thinks that what he thinks must be a law for everyone.
No, we are not brains in vats. We are not solitary self-defining intellectual identities who form temporary alliances with each other for short-term mutual advantage. My existence is fundamentally bound up with yours. Of course, I will clean you up. Of course, I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night. Shut up about being a burden. I love you. This is what it means to love you. Surely, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about all of this.
Stupid. Of course it’s beautiful if it’s what you want. But equally of course it’s not beautiful if it’s what you don’t want. It’s not any kind of denial or betrayal of love, either. Don’t try that on for one second. That’s just moral blackmail of a peculiarly disgusting kind. We all need to be able to decide what we can stand and when we want to end it when we can’t stand it any more. We do not need unctuously bullying clerics telling us we have to keep on standing it because “I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night.” (Oh really? Giles Fraser is going to hold the hand of all of us? No of course he’s not, and he shouldn’t say he is. His existence is not bound up with mine, either. I know that was rhetoric, and it’s a generic “you” and a generic “I” – but it also isn’t. It’s manipulative that way.)
But it is also right to push back against the general assumption that pain reduction is unproblematic. For pain is so much a part of life that its suppression can also be a suppression of a great deal of that which is valuable. Constantly anaesthetising ourselves against pain is also a way to reduce our exposure to so much that is wonderful about life.
Yet too many of us make a Faustian pact with pharmacology, welcoming its obvious benefits, but ignoring the fact that drugs also can demand your soul. That’s perhaps why we speak of the overly drugged-up as zombies.
The same damn problem still. If you want pain, Mr Fraser, you can choose pain. That does not mean you get to force anyone else to choose it. It doesn’t even mean that anyone else should choose it.
Finally, the contemporary “good death” is one that happens without the dying person knowing all that much about it. But what about the need for time to say goodbye and sorry and thank you? It is as if we want to die without actually knowing we are dying.
Is he kidding? Who has the better chance of saying goodbye and sorry and thank you, people who don’t know when the end is or people who schedule it?
My problem with euthanasia is not that it is a immoral way to die, but that it has its roots in a fearful way to live.
That’s insulting. What a horrible, self-centered, sentimental yet ruthless article.