By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE - Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International and the Spokesperson/Convener of the Not Dead Yet UK Campaign.
Death is not an event in life, like marriage, or buying your first car or home, not even like losing a limb. It is not a catastrophe to be ‘cured’ or fixed or accommodated going forward. Death is the end of all the possibilities of life. It is both more terrible and more important than injuries suffered in a car accident, or the suffering a cancer brings. We have lost that sense of its importance.
We live in a time when we are constantly bombarded by atrocities from across the globe. We say ‘life is cheap’ when what we really mean is that death is, when our sense of what it is for a human being, any human being, to die, is corrupted beyond repair. We have lost any sense of the ‘terrible beauty’ that Leon and Jill Uris photographed in Ireland in the 1970s, that even in such horrific and deadly circumstances there can still be something there for us to find profound, even beautiful. We only count death now as a degrading ‘failure’, as though we can and should be able to defeat it, if we only worked a little harder, did a bit more research.
Death has become the cheapest of all commodities and dying is our new atrocity in western, wealthy cultures where the luxury of false ‘choice’ exists. Dying has become an abomination, in which we are supposed to be absolutely and irrevocably excluded from the new alchemists’ panacea…dignity.
So Brittany Maynard, faced with dying in a way she found unacceptable, has committed suicide with the help of the state of Oregon. There are so many questions left unresolved by her final act – would there have been any kind of dying she might have found acceptable? is it really so simple ‘Her life her choice?’ are there no concerns about how she has used her dying to promote a cause?
But my question here is not ‘Whose life is it anyway?’ – that question is a false one – oh, it looks like a question , has all the words in the right order - but it is actually nonsensical. Any part of this debate focusing on her ‘right’ to do this is specious, and no help whatsoever.
No, my question is ‘Whose dignity is it?’