Saturday 22 October 2016

Live and let die: we are condoning suicide if we permit assisted suicide

Published 10/06/2016 | 02:30

Tom Curran with Marie Fleming in 2013. Photo: Garry O’Neill
Tom Curran with Marie Fleming in 2013. Photo: Garry O’Neill

Tom Curran, partner of the late 'right-to-die' campaigner, Marie Fleming, has stepped up his campaign to have assisted suicide legalised in this and other countries.

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In a lengthy interview with the 'Irish Examiner' on Monday, he revealed that he helped Marie - who was in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis - to kill herself. He also revealed that he has helped around 200 people in Ireland, in Britain, and in various other parts of Europe to plan their own suicides. He said he doesn't know what subsequently happened to many of these people.

The admission that he has given this sort of advice to around 200 people is absolutely remarkable. It means that Curran has made himself a freelance administrator of suicide advice, thereby condoning the act of suicide in certain circumstances. At the same time, we are trying to reduce our suicide rates.

Tom Curran is a leading member of an organisation that campaigns for legalised euthanasia, and which freely dispenses advice on how to kill yourself, namely Exit International.

It was founded in Australia by a Dr Philip Nitschke. Go to its website and see for yourself what it is all about. It's an eye-opener. It basically advocates euthanasia-on-demand.

The website says: "At Exit, we believe that it is a fundamental human right for every adult of sound mind, to be able to plan for the end of their life in a way that is reliable, peaceful and at a time of their choosing."

Note the only two limitations on the 'right to die': you must be an adult, and of "sound" mind. You do not have to be terminally ill or in extreme pain.

Exit International is doing its best to bring about this vision, including through selling products that allow people to kill themselves.

Nitschke, for his part, seems proud of the title some of the press have given him, that is, 'Dr Death'.

To the public, Tom Curran is presented by the media as the heroic partner of Marie Fleming, who cared for her as her condition worsened and then helped her to fight for the 'right to die'.

Tom Curran was indubitably a hero to Marie. He did look after her heroically. By its own lights, his and her campaign to win the 'right to die' was brave and the risk he runs of being prosecuted is also brave.

It is brave in the same way as pro-life campaigners sometimes have to be brave in countries where abortion is legal. In Sweden, for example, there is a nurse currently fighting for her career because, on conscience grounds, she does not want to perform abortions. She has lost her job as a result.

She is being represented in her fight by the tremendously brave Ruth Nordstrom, of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers. In Sweden, you have to be courageous to oppose abortion.

But the difference between this nurse - Ellinor Grimmark - and Tom Curran is that one is fighting for the right to life and the other for the right to take life, if needs be at the hands of a doctor or family member.

Curran said in his interview that he turns down many people who come to him for help because he thinks they have remedies for what ails them other than suicide.

He said he was "extremely careful about who I help . . . these would be people who are irrationally suicidal".

The word "irrationally" is carefully chosen by him. It fits in with Exit's overarching philosophy that you must be of 'sound mind' if you want to kill yourself.

But immediately this shows us how subjective the whole thing is. Curran has taken it on himself to judge who is making a 'rational' choice and who is not, and then come up with a suicide plan or not as the case may be.

Curran will say that if assisted suicide was legal, then the experts could step in. But the process of deciding who lives and who dies would still be highly subjective, unless you insist the person must be terminally ill. That is not to say assisted suicide should be allowed in these cases either.

Once you permit assisted suicide, you are condoning suicide. There is no way of getting away from this.

You are also telling people with illnesses that will eventually kill them (think of Muhammad Ali with Parkinson's disease), that it is OK for them to kill themselves.

There is a movie currently playing in cinemas called 'Me Before You'. It is ostensibly a romance, but really it is an ad for assisted suicide. The main character is a quadriplegic who wants to die. What is this telling other quadriplegics?

The Netherlands and Belgium both permit euthanasia and assisted suicide. The grounds for both keep widening. Children can now avail of 'help with dying', as can those who are not dying but find life 'unbearable'.

In the Netherlands last year, there were more than 5,500 deaths by euthanasia. That is up almost 300pc compared with 2006.

In the Marie Fleming case, the High Court accepted that the law in Belgium and the Netherlands is being abused.

It is obvious that the debate about assisted suicide is the next big thing. The people who must step up to defeat attempts to legalise it here are disabled people who know such a law will make them more vulnerable than ever, and doctors who work in palliative care.

One such person is Dr Tony O'Brien, who appeared on RTE's 'Prime Time' on Tuesday night to argue very ably against assisted suicide.

Those who can win the most public sympathy will ultimately win this debate.

Irish Independent

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