Saturday 27 December 2014

How can you sentence someone to a fate worse than life?

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

Marie Fleming at her home in Co Wicklow
Pic:Mark Condren
3.5.2013
Marie Fleming
The movie 'Office Space' uses product placement

You have to admit, we don't pay enough attention to the Archbishop of Canterbury in this country. Even more disgracefully, we don't pay enough attention to former Archbishops of Canterbury. I dunno, maybe it has something to do with the fact that we aren't as religious as we used to be. Or, perhaps more pertinently, it has something to do with the fact that us paying attention to what the head of the Anglican Church has to say on moral matters makes even less sense than calibrating your moral compass according to coordinates set by a bloke in Rome. In other words, not much sense at all.

But just because someone is religious doesn't mean we should automatically dismiss everything they say as celestial codswollop that has no place in the 21st Century.

Having decided that they have spent too much time engaged in an ecclesiastical civil war over gay marriage and women priests, they are now sundering themselves over the issue of assisted suicide. In one corner we have the likes of Lord Carey, who has undergone a spiritual volte-face and now supports the right-to-end-life, while the current incumbent, Justin Welby, is firmly opposed.

That, at least, displays a diversity of views which is denied to Catholics. But the simple fact is that, in an era of artificially-elongated life spans, we are now living for longer, and in more horrific circumstances, than nature intended. What modern medicine has facilitated, modern law has neglected - society is now in a position where people are kept alive long after they should have died with dignity.

We live in a culture obsessed with rights and entitlements. We routinely see the once noble phrase 'human rights' so eroded and debased that even the use of the phrase is enough to have most sensible people rolling their eyes in disdain - the 'right' to a certain standard of living, the 'right' to not be offended by something, the 'right' to what others have.

But regardless of where any people stand on the political spectrum, the one thing many of us can rely on is the fact that we will all face our own demise. Sure, the majority will manage to kill themselves through their diet or their lifestyle.

But the reward for living a long and healthy life is now, for many of us, the delightful option of spending your last years or months stuck in your own private hell as your body slowly disintegrates and turns into your greatest enemy.

It's interesting, but not surprising, that the people who bang the religious drum the loudest seem to be the ones most lacking in compassion and empathy. And, even less surprising, is their complete and total inability to look at how others want to live and die on their own terms without someone else's religious morality dictating those terms to them.

Marie Fleming is obviously the most notable Irish person to have been faced with this predicament. But she is not the only one, and as medicine finds newer ways to artificially sustain life long after its sell-by date has passed, we are going to be seeing more people arguing for the right to die. And we're going to hear more of the same guff arguing against it.

Anyone who has ever watched someone waste away, looking on horror as each day brings a fresh and terrible indignity, knows that the kindest thing to do is let that person slip away. It's also the hardest thing we can do, but a service we provide to our most beloved pets is denied to our most precious family members.

Of course, it never takes long for Godwin's Law to crop up. This is the old argument that once someone invokes the Nazis they have lost the debate. Yet only yesterday saw one anti-euthanasia campaigner loftily warn us of the 'slippery slope' that begins with extending mercy to someone who has decided that they just can't take any more - and ends with gas chambers for the mentally ill and those deemed 'unworthy' of life.

It's an appalling, and frankly, disgusting piece of semantics that relies on invoking the greatest atrocity in the history of humanity, the Holocaust, to score some points. After all, who wants to be portrayed as the modern version of Mengele?

Ultimately, the right to die will be the most important right that any of us have. And this fundamentally private right is far too important to allow someone else's God to dictate the terms of our demise.

This column was brought to you by... well, nobody. Sadly

We live in an age where we have become more savvy than ever before. We're more aware of stealth marketing and spoof ads, so product placement has become the go-to scam for those clever marketing types.

This is the kind of practice which means that, before you know it, you're drinking a beer that your favourite character from a movie drinks, or you're more inclined to buy something simply because some effortlessly cool TV show or movie subliminally suggests that this is what you should be doing.

This is the kind of sharp practice that subtly tugs at our brains and our wallets and it should be exposed and ridiculed at all costs.

Except for the sadly neglected movie Office Space, which saw the characters drink the lovely Dos Equis.

Obviously, iSpy carries no product placements. Not out of morals, but because everybody I approach refuses. Damn them their hide...

Now there's a massive surprise!

When faced with a rowdy crowd intent on causing trouble, what would you do? Would you call in the tear gas? Or would you give one of the protestors a megaphone and hope for the best?

Police in Frankfurt tried the latter during an anti-Israeli protest at the weekend and were horrified when they gave one agitant a loudhailer - only for him to start shouting anti-Semitic slogans.

Honestly, when you can't trust an angry mob, the world has truly gone mad.

Ian O'Doherty

Irish Independent

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