Revisit: The right-to-die

In editorial on May 27, 2010 at 20:54

This article was originally published in the St. Angilbert Press, and is reproduced here in advance of our “right-to-make-you-live-if-you-can’t-make-the-decision-we-think-is-right-yourself” piece.

Please note, it was written for a Canadian audience.

So-called “right-to-die” campaigners are celebrating here in the United Kingdom, following new guidelines released by the Crown Prosecution Service.  The guidelines were published following a lengthy public debate surrounding the legal fate of individuals who help others take their own lives.

Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, told the Daily Telegraph that the new “policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim”, but that it “does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia.”

What Mr. Starmer doesn’t tell you is that the new guidelines do, de facto, change the law.

In the United Kingdom, for more serious crimes – and this qualifies as a more serious crime – it is the Crown Prosecution Service that decides who will and who will not be prosecuted.

As an example, something you will see quite frequently in news items from the CPS are phrases such as “high probability of conviction” or “a prosecution is not in the public interest.”  This has been used in past cases of assisted suicide to justify not prosecuting relatives of those who – for example – decide to end their lives at institutions such as the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland.

All these guidelines serve to do is further cement into place a set of practices  that have – for all intents and purposes – been there for some time.

At the end of the day, one must assume that Mr. Starmer’s guidelines are simply the political predecessor to legalizing assisted suicide outright, here in the United Kingdom.

Starmer began laying the groundwork for this new policy back in 2008, when he invoked the “not in the public interest” argument in the case of the parents and a family friend of Daniel James.

The Guardian reported:

The Crown Prosecution Service yesterday effectively ruled out the prosecution of relatives who assist the terminally ill to commit suicide after announcing it would take no action against the family of rugby player Daniel James, despite having sufficient evidence to do so.

In his first decision as director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC stated he would not prosecute the parents and a family friend of the 23-year-old, who was paralysed in a training ground accident, for assisting his death.

“I have concluded that a prosecution is not needed in the public interest,” Starmer wrote, taking the unprecedented step of publishing the reasons for his decision.

The case was described by prosecutors yesterday as a landmark and is the first to rule out prosecution on the grounds of public interest alone. Starmer’s decision, which clarifies the CPS stance on assisted suicide, ends speculation in the case of James and sends a clear message that future cases with similar circumstances are unlikely to result in prosecutions.

Right-to-die critics are correct to point out that should such legislation ever pass through Parliament (or Congress), it can quickly turn into “duty-to-die” for the afflicted.

Barbara Wagner had recurrent lung cancer and Randy Stroup had prostate cancer. Both were on Medicaid, the state’s health insurance plan for the poor that, like some NHS services, is rationed. The state denied both treatment, but told them it would pay for their assisted suicide. “It dropped my chin to the floor,” Stroup told the media. “[How could they] not pay for medication that would help my life, and yet offer to pay to end my life?” (Wagner eventually received free medication from the drug manufacturer. She has since died. The denial of chemotherapy to Stroup was reversed on appeal after his story hit the media.)

While I’m not a fan of the slippery slope argument, it would certainly seem that Mr. Starmer started down it in 2008, and he continues to distinguish himself in that manner, today.

It is, in effect, a Bennite Solution.  One wonders just how long it will be until Parliament capitulates and Mr. Starmer’s guidelines (read “policy”) become law.  And how long, after Parliament capitulates, until it is offered as a service by the NHS?  My dear sweet Lord, can you imagine the NHS being in charge of killing people?  Oh, wait, they already are.

As the sanctity of human life continues to be undermined by organisations such as Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion/pro-choice lobbyists on both sides of the Atlantic, the argument for assisted suicide becomes easier and easier (in the political arena, anyway).

Might be worth checking out what these folks have to say on the matter:

The Sanctity of Life mentality regards individual human life as holy, sacred, and of immeasurable value, regardless of the physical and/or mental quality of the person.  You can place a price on things, but not on human persons who are created by God and who are called by God, each one, to union with Him in the unimaginable joy of eternal life in heaven.

But, at least thanks to blokes like Starmer we can once again say – with a high probability of being correct – that sometimes to only purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.

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