Hilary White

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How socialism makes old people want to kill themselves: a true story

The names and details of the story have been changed, of course, but the story is absolutely true.
Wed Sep 17, 2014 - 11:22 am EST
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Let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, my beloved uncle and aunt, who live in northern England, were close friends with a nice couple whom I’ll call Margaret and James. These were perfectly ordinary middle class people, who are of the immediate post-War generation, born in the mid-40s. They worked quite hard all their lives, and built a business, which did fairly well. They had assumed that this work would pay off in the long term, and that because they had planned carefully and wisely, and had saved and lived pretty sensibly, that they were more or less set for retirement. This is, after all, how it is supposed to work.

They were about five years into this retirement, and having a pretty nice time, going on modest holidays, spending a lot of time with the grandchildren, being involved in local civic and cultural organizations… exactly what you would think such salt-of-the-earth types would be up to in the second half of life. Then one day, James had a stroke. He was rushed to hospital and received excellent treatment and care, but the damage was done. James was a long time in hospital, and when he was released to go home, he was unable to care for himself.

The therapists had mostly got him talking again, and he could eat on his own, but he required constant attendance, something his loving wife was, given her age and lack of formal nursing skills, realistically unable to give. James was able to get about the house for a while, but needed a wheel chair when he went out, and his condition deteriorated.

How do you think a government body whose job it is to make sure that medical treatment in Britain does not exceed its budget allocations, will respond to an opportunity to take these expensive people right out of the financial picture?

Finally, the inevitable had to be faced, and Margaret looked into the options. But this is Britain, so all the “options” were whatever the government was willing to provide. This meant that a home help for household tasks and a home visiting nurse were impossible – and of course, a live-in nurse was out of the question.

You see, James and Margaret had worked too hard and planned too well for their retirement. While they weren't so well off that they could afford to pay 100% of the costs of long-term care themselves, they had planned too well in the eyes of the government. 

The Council told them, “You have too much money and too many assets. You can only get James in if you sell your home, liquidate all your assets and give us the money. Once you are jointly worth under 24,000 pounds, then we’ll have a place for you.”

(This sort of thing has become common. Read here.) 

The Socialism that has taken over every public institution in Britain, and crowded and bullied the churches out of their caring role, had taken away all the choices but one. They must impoverish themselves, wiping out any possibility of a comfortable long-term survival for Margaret – and never mind leaving something for the grandchildren, before getting the care James needed. Everything they had worked for all their lives was sold off and given to the government in exchange for care.

It was not very long before James, a kindly and hard working, decent man, started using that peculiar British expression, “being a burden.” He died soon after of natural causes.

The names and details of the story have been changed, of course, but the story is absolutely true.

Falconer's bill

Every year, with the end of the summer holidays and the turning of the leaves come all the joys of the new Parliamentary session, and a return to all our legislative worries, including, perhaps most prominently in the UK this year, the possibility that the mother country will legalize assisted suicide. The Falconer bill is headed back to the committee examining it in the House of Lords, and it is expected to be passed by that formerly august body, and sent off to the Commons.

Recently, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons, and perhaps most poignantly, the Association for Palliative Medicine, submitted strong statements against the idea of legal “assisted suicide” (a term that is coming to have very little to distinguish it from outright euthanasia).

They mainly argue that patients suffering from terminal illness are emotionally vulnerable, they can be frightened and deeply agitated, and in a depressed mental and emotional state. They point out that the bill’s main flaw is the concept that a person in such a state could make a valid choice to want to die. They point out that this mental state, that would naturally produce a desire for suicide, is, ipso facto, a condition that would preclude their being able to make a calm and informed decision.

One would think that the statements of these people, doctors who deal directly with such patients, would hold a lot of weight. But if one were inclined to think that, one might also think that ultrasounds demonstrating that an unborn child is in fact a living human being, whom it is wrong to kill, would have put a stop to legalized abortion decades ago. What is at work here is not reality but a determined nihilist, anti-human ideology, a “culture of death,” as someone once called it.

If there are people out there who still think, in the face of forty-odd years of such medical evidence, as well as common sense, that such legislation is based on facts, science and reason, then I suppose no amount of evidence to the contrary will suffice to change their minds. As Professor Peter Kreeft once said in answer to my question about it, “There are some who can only be moved by prayer and fasting,” meaning that we are faced not with science, reason and facts, but the awful, ancient and terrifying mystery of human evil, which will never be fully fathomed by us in this life.

So, yes, this year we again have Falconer’s bill to fight. And, despite the sudden plunge of the proposal’s popularity among medical professionals, the notion of killing oneself with a doctor’s “help” still remains wildly popular among Britain’s public.

While Falconer’s supporters, the organization formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, have claimed that support is at 80%, Care Not Killing counters that the numbers, once numerical clarity has been achieved, look more realistically like 43%.

But while 43% won’t tip the scales in a referendum (no, there isn’t going to be one) it’s still an extraordinary figure. Of a population of about 64 million people, nearly thirty million think allowing doctors to give people drugs to kill themselves or, more likely, to have their relatives do the deed, is a perfectly sane, sensible and reasonable idea.

How did the UK learn to love euthanasia?

It does make one wonder, how did a country formerly known for its stoicism and common sense come to such a cultural pass?

The reasons for the peculiar enthusiasm of British people for euthanasia are varied and complex, and probably have much to do with the terrible hardening of many British hearts that have, apparently, definitively turned away from God and his priority of mercy, love and self-forgetfulness. A thorough examination of the phenomenon would require a fearless dive into the nation’s philosophical and moral history since the English Reformation, and therefore be more or less impossible for a blog post.

But there is one thing that is clearly fuelling the nation’s euthanasia-mania that perhaps is easier to talk about, but that is going largely unnoticed: socialism. All medical care in Britain is provided by the government. All. And the government has this interesting body, called the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE – yes, that’s really it … not making it up…) whose task it is to decide who does and does not get treatment, and, perhaps even more ominously, what “level” of treatment a person is entitled to, all judged according to a precise mathematical formula.

The NICE are, effectively, the triage body, to decide whether your life, or the life of your mum or dad or grandma, is worth spending the money trying to save, given whatever’s wrong with you. For instance, if you are 30 and you have cancer, you might get access to certain drugs or treatments for which a 70-year-old with cancer will not be approved. The principle at work, in its essence, is back to good old British Utilitarianism; Jeremy Bentham’s ice-cold calculation of the “greatest good for the greatest number”. It is still not widely understood that this, the philosophy of the gas chamber, is back with a vengeance as the leading principle in nearly all the hospital and medical ethics boards and conferences in nearly every country of the western world.

Now, with this in mind, how do you think a government body whose job it is to make sure that medical treatment in Britain does not exceed its budget allocations, will respond to an opportunity to take these expensive people right out of the financial picture?

And How long do you think it would take a couple like James and Margaret, who, like most British people, had never been near a church for anything but weddings and funerals since the 1950s, to start to think that a painless injection would be the solution to all their problems? 


  assisted suicide, euthanasia, lord falconer, uk

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