This article was published on the HOPE Ireland website.
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick is the director of HOPE Ireland.
Hermann de Dijn, emeritus professor of philosophy at the Belgian University of Leuven, says: ‘Once the law is there, you have people asking themselves new questions… ‘Do I really have quality of life? Am I not a burden on others?’
De Dijn believes that ‘human dignity should include not only respect for personal choices but also for connectedness to loved ones and society.’ The concept of human dignity in Belgium has been ‘reduced to the ability to have certain experiences’.
He is absolutely right of course. The concept has been stretched beyond its limits. It has lost all meaning in Belgium.
We must now, ever more urgently, return to clear ground, to be sure we are really speaking about dignity, not some corrupted notion which has no actual bearing on what should be our proper concerns.
If the questions are not exactly new, the locus of them is: Belgium’s veneration of death – the lazy moral thinking in a whole society which has allowed itself to be led on a leash to accept the idea that death is, and should be, the default ‘treatment’ for all ailments. This is the societal tectonic shift that allows a young woman, just 24 years old, with apparently serious mental health issues, to apply for and be granted a euthanasia death (believed to be scheduled for August this year), and to say she finds ‘euthanasia a nice idea’.
I was under the impression that children do not form a concept of death until about the age of 7 years, yet this young woman speaks about wanting to die at 4 years old. I can’t buy that. Language development is essential to intellectual development. We cannot form concepts for which we have no words. Early years’ development in children is sufficiently academically explored to make me very suspicious at least, of this ‘memory’.
Personal experience is not scientific, but it is still evidence. I know the interventions of some psychiatrists actually do more damage than good. I want to ask: is her memory then ‘recovered’ memory – false memory? It is very difficult to be clear. It is entirely possible that she genuinely feels the way the short piece I could read indicates.
But in most other healthcare the first response to suicidal ideation is suicide prevention, not a ‘validating’ white-coated arm around the shoulder from a supposedly trusted professional, a doctor who says; ‘Well we can help. We have euthanasia.’