Kevin Yuill: Me Before You is fiction, but so are most arguments for assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill, a history professor at Sunderland University, wrote an excellent article that was published in the Telegraph today. Yuill's argues that Me Before You is simply one of many fictional stories about assisted suicide, but then he also states that arguments supporting assisted suicide are also fictionally based. Yuill writes:

There is an outbreak of fictional assisted suicides, of which the film released this week, Me Before You, is simply the most recent example. Before, we had Million Dollar Baby, The Sea Inside, One True Thing, and episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls, Coronation Street, and Hollyoaks. Such a plot-device is neither new nor "taboo-busting" – that taboo has been well and truly busted. 
It is interesting that the case for assisted suicide exists more in the fevered imagination of authors and screenwriters than in reality. Only a handful of Britons kill themselves in Swiss assisted suicide clinics every year; the rate of fictional representations to people actually killing themselves in Switzerland must be nearly 1:1. But Me Before You has sparked protests, mostly from disabled groups, because it implicitly asks the question: If you were quadriplegic (or severely disabled), would/should you kill yourself? 
Of course, the film is fiction and not particularly imaginative fiction at that, but there is a real context to the unease of groups of disabled activists like Not Dead Yet who have protested outside cinemas.

Yuill outlines some of the information from his book: Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization (2015) 

The whole case for assisted suicide is fictional. Rather than empathy, it is based on anxiety in the worried well. “I’d rather die than suffer like you do”, some actually say out loud to disabled people, who, in my experience are a feisty lot who enjoy (and all too often must fight for) their lives. There are real disabled lives – and there is the narcissistic projection of gloomy imaginings onto the disabled. 

Link to the full article

The narcissism of assisted suicide

This article was published on August 11, 2015 by Spiked.

A shocking case that shows that assisted suicide is about more than alleviating suffering.

Dr Kevin Yuill

Dr Kevin Yuill

By Dr Kevin Yuill, an academic and an author.

In his sharply observed book The Culture of Narcissism, the American social critic Christopher Lasch remarked that, in modern life, ‘The usual defences against the ravages of age – identification with ethical or artistic values beyond one’s immediate interests, intellectual curiosity, the consoling emotional warmth derived from happy relationships in the past – can do nothing for the narcissist’. 

In a generation that has forgotten that it stands in the midst of a long line of past and future generations, Lasch noted, many live ‘for the feeling, the momentary illusion, of personal wellbeing, health, and psychic security’.

As Lasch later lamented, his exploration of narcissism was widely misunderstood. In his writing, narcissism referred not to a confident self-centredness, but to the inability of an entire culture to see beyond the corners of itself, to understand the self’s place in history, or to believe in its ability rationally to control the future. Lasch claimed that the survival of the self – not self-improvement – had become the highest aspiration.

There is more than a whiff of narcissistic survivalism in the openness of many Western societies to assisted suicide. This was best symbolised by the trip Gill Pharaoh, a healthy, 75-year-old retired nurse, took to the LifeCircle suicide clinic in Switzerland. Pharaoh, who died on 21 July this year, was not ill, but wished to die. She noted in her final blog that she wanted ‘people to remember me as I now am – as a bit worn around the edges but still recognisably me!’.

This ‘snapshot’ sentiment, whereby we preserve ourselves for posterity, is surely illusory. We can neither control how people remember us nor can we preserve a moment in time. There is no perfect moment or ideal physical presence, no ‘real me’, because life is a process, constantly unfolding. We continually learn and change, and the ‘authentic’ self cannot be captured at one specific time. Nor is a ‘perfect’ or merely ‘good’ death meaningful to the deceased. Killing oneself does not preserve anything – it destroys the prospect of further experiences and interactions.

Link to the full article

The nihilistic liberalism evident in Belgium is the future if assisted dying is legalised

The following article was originally published in the Telegraph UK on February 2, 2015.

By Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill

Tom Mortier never paid much attention to the discussion about voluntary death in his country. “I was like just about anyone else here in Belgium: I didn’t care at all,” he said. “If people want to die, it’s probably their choice. It didn’t concern me.”

But in April, 2012, ten years after the law changed to allow euthanasia, Mortier, a university lecturer, received a message at work. His 64-year-old mother, Godelieve De Troyer, who suffered from severe depression, had been euthanised the previous day. Would he be able to make the arrangements at the morgue?

His mother had largely broken off contact with the family but had informed him by email three months earlier that she was looking into euthanasia. Mortier did not dream that her request would be taken seriously because she was in perfect physical health. After his mother’s death, the doctor who gave her the injection assured Mortier that he was “absolutely certain” his mother didn’t want to live anymore. The shock felt by Mortier at the sudden – and unnecessary – loss of his mother inspired him to become a leading campaigner against Belgian euthanasia law.

Link to the full article

Isn't assisted suicide really suicide?

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister in the UK, announced at a mental health conference, the government's intention to reduce suicide to zero by working in cooperation with every part of the National Health Service and other agencies.

According to The Telegraph news, Clegg is modeling this suicide prevention program on the successful program that was implemented in Detroit Michigan. The article stated:

... every suicide is preventable if NHS trusts provide better care for people suffering from depression and other serious illnesses. 
The “zero suicides” target can be met through simple measures, such as keeping in touch with patients who have been discharged from mental health wards and creating a plan so that patients and their friends know whom to contact if they are placing themselves in danger. 
Police and transport agencies will be called on to examine whether safety measures can be put in place in “hot zones” where high numbers of suicides occur, such as shopping centres or bridges. 
The plans have been inspired by a mental health programme in Detroit, US, where a “zero suicide” commitment resulted in no-one in the care of state depression services taking their lives in two years.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and similar organizations encourages the UK government to implement a goal of ending suicide. We recognize that suicide is 100% preventable.

Link to the full article

If assisted dying is a medical treatment, then all are entitled to it – including convicted murderers

This article was published by HOPE Australia on January 15, 2015.

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill

By Paul Russell - The Director of Hope Australia

Kevin Yuill in an article published in Spiked, reflects on the situation of the Belgian prisoner, Frank Van Den Bleeken. Van Den Bleeken was granted his request for euthanasia only to have it cancelled days before it was to be carried out.

Yuill observes the hypocrisy of some in the British commentariat:

“British commentators were mainly aghast at what they saw as the reintroduction of the death penalty. Some objected to Van Den Bleeken’s death on the basis that he, as a prisoner, should not determine his own sentence. Others, such as barrister and ethicist Daniel Sokol, felt that Van Den Bleeken’s death would not be a voluntary act because he had been denied psychiatric treatment. Sokol also argued that ‘[a]llowing a prisoner, who is not terminally ill, to die by euthanasia has a whiff of the death penalty’. In other words, the same people who support Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill in the UK, as well as others who support right-to-die laws in the US, shuddered at the thought of granting the right to die to a prisoner.”

Link to the full article