by Gavin Ashenden:
When I heard that I was going to have the opportunity of debating the issue of euthanasia and assisted dying with Silvan Luley, a lawyer and a Director of the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, I was very pleased and looked forward to meeting him and what I would learn from our encounter.
I wasn’t disappointed, Silvan turned out to be a clever, principled and very civilised exponent of the work of the clinic.
As I listened to him putting the case for assisted dying I found myself agreeing with almost every word. The arguments have got to do with human dignity, a refusal just to accept suffering that seems meaningless. They offered the opportunity to bring some level of personal choice into a situation where illness and tragedy had robbed the dying person of the ultimate choice of wanting or being able to stay alive. They represented a kind of stoic fighting back. “Well if I have to go, I will at least go on my own terms.”
As a proud man who values independence and autonomy, they spoke powerfully to me. What’s not to like. How can one disagree?
Except that after wrestling with the underlying issues, I find I do disagree.
But not with the arguments in favour of assisted dying. Instead what I find is that the unintended and unforeseen consequences are the problem.
John Donne famously wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is part of a continent, a part of the main.”
What Donne was trying to convey was the way in which all our lives are connected, and the effect we can have on each other.