Saturday 3 December 2016

O'Doherty: The important human right is the right to die

Published 07/06/2015 | 02:30

Battle with the State: Gail O'Rorke, who was acquitted of assisting in the suicide of her late friend
Battle with the State: Gail O'Rorke, who was acquitted of assisting in the suicide of her late friend
Grahame Morris

Well, it's now two weeks to the day since we declared our greatness to the world. The sky hasn't fallen in and the only sign of God's wrath so far has been an unseasonable, but hardly Biblical, cold and wet start to the summer.

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Gay people will still be gay and nobody is going to choose to become so because of a referendum. Also, homophobes will still be homophobic and nobody is going to change their mind because of the vote.

Meanwhile, the silent majority who voted Yes largely on the grounds that it was none of our business what other grown-ups do (and isn't that the definition of tolerance?) will be happy that their vote contributed to a positive change, even if many 'soft Yes' voters had become increasingly weary with the emotional blackmail and hyperbole that polluted much of the Yes campaign, particularly in the latter stages when they began to get twitchy.

In the midst of all the back-slapping and crowing, the most tedious refrain was the one about 'human rights.'

These days, the phrase 'human rights' has become so meaningless and over-used that it's almost guaranteed to raise the hackles. But while we were all focused on the Great Distraction that was the gay marriage vote, a genuine human rights group met in Dublin, and unlike our gay crusaders, this group faces prosecution and persecution by the authorities on a daily basis.

You may not have noticed, but Exit International recently met in Dublin to discuss the most burning issue any of us, gay or straight, will ever face - our own death.

The meeting featured two campaigners who have done battle with the State on the issue of assisted suicide, Tom Curran and Gail O'Rorke, who were joined by the controversial head of Exit, Dr Philip Nitschke, who assisted in the deaths of four people before the practice was outlawed in Australia.

You don't have to be a staunch Libertarian (although it helps) to feel a sense of outrage at the idea of the State interfering in someone's last days. You just need to have a conscience.

As modern medicine continues to find more ways to keep us alive long after we should have naturally expired, this is going to be the big cultural hot-button issue of the next few years and it's far more pressing than gay marriage, or abortion. Anyone who has ever spent time with a terminally ill loved one will know that there is no dignity in suffering; no grace and certainly no redemption.

It's messy, humiliating, distressing and the emotional scars remain long after the patient has died.

There are moral qualms, of course. Belgium seems to have adopted a euthanasia-for-all approach, and allowing a doctor to euthanise someone because they were going blind, as has happened, is all a bit too Soylent Green for my taste.

But what right do any of us have to force someone else to live in agony and, crucially, terror?

Does anyone feel morally qualified to sentence someone to live their last months in constant pain and increasing terror?

I know I don't and we should all be wary of anyone who says they do.

The religious argument against euthanasia invariably uses the old canard that old people will be shipped off the an Irish Dignitas by the dozen by greedy family members who don't want to see their inheritance wasted on costly, and ultimately futile, medical treatments..

Frankly, all that proves is that belief in a supreme being doesn't imbue you with much faith in your fellow man.

Better to be an atheist and moral than religious and cruel.

BTW...

We don't like to admit it, but the Irish have an absolutely terrible sense of humour. The two great myths we  perpetuate about ourselves is that we are A) a nation of free thinking rebels and B) we have a sense of humour which is the envy of the rest of the world.

Both are complete bunkum.

Whether it's finally throwing off the spiritual, mental and sexual shackles of the Church only to fall immediately into a new and equally oppressive 'liberal' orthodoxy, or organising petitions to stop a sit-com about the famine, we are both slavish and prickly beyond belief.

The latest example of such Hiberno-huffiness comes with comments made by an Aussie pundit who said we couldn't grow potatoes and our national emblem is a weed.

The kind of people who have way too much time on their hands have accused Grahame Morris of inciting racial hatred and are demanding that he be sacked from Sky Australia unless he apologises.

Here's a handy hint for life and you can have it for nothing - if you were truly upset by a stranger's comments then seek psychiatric help because you obviously can't cope in the modern world.

Anyway, who cares what a bloke who can't even spell his own first name thinks of us?

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