From Caring to Culling: ‘Euthanasia’ to Murder
The Director of Public Prosecutions has now semi-legalized assisted suicide; the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society would have approved; it was founded in 1932 by members of the Eugenics Society, and the eugenicist Glanville Williams, who advocated euthanasia and infanticide, was instrumental in the legalization of abortion, and in decriminalizing suicide in 1961. However, with people turning to modern hospice care and new treatments, campaigners lamented the dearth of arguments for euthanasia; clearly, it was not being sought by those supposedly in need of it - the sick and the dying.
Both the euthanasia and abortion campaigns employed compassionate arguments, but while Williamss simplified euthanasia procedure failed to allay public fears, VELS founder Dr Killick Millards complicated safeguards were even more alarming:
In order to prevent any likelihood of bungling, it would be very necessary that only medical practitioners who had been specially licensed to euthanizeshould be allowed to administer euthanasia. Quite possibly, the work would be left in the hands of the official euthanizors who would have to be appointed specially for each area.
Despite their stress on voluntary the campaigns frequent references to sick and disabled children suggested that their real object was not, as claimed, sentient adults. Williams insisted it was not proposed to destroy such children against their parents wishes; nevertheless:
The proposal [for hopelessly defective infants] certainly escapes the chief objection to the similar proposal for senile dementia: it does not create a sense of insecurity in society, because infants cannot, like adults, feel anticipatory dread of being done to death if their condition should worsen.
In 1950 Lord Chorley responded to objections to a parliamentary Bill that it did not go far enough, because it applies only to adults and does not apply to children who come into the world deaf, dumb and crippled, and who have a much better cause That may be so, but we must go step by step. In 2005 Lord Joffe said his Bill for assisted dying was a first stepan incremental approach in the introduction of euthanasia.
Williams envisaged that, even without legalizing involuntary euthanasia, as the problem [of the senile] becomes more acute it will itself cause a reversal of generally accepted values, and offensive pictures of the helpless certainly helped: What of the drooling, helpless, disorientated old man or the doubly incontinent old woman lying log-like in bed? Campaigner Mary Barrington agreed that planned births would mean an equivalent swing-away from the ideal of longevity to the concept of a planned death. A. B. Downing warned that health improvements meant the evil possibilities of a population explosion.
Although the campaigns for euthanasia and abortion were closely linked, only now is the true nature of their symbiosis known; during the 1930s Bishop Barnes of Birmingham, a Eugenics Society supporter of abortion, divorce and euthanasia, saw birth control as the only way to limit the populations size and improve its quality but, as he told a leading member of the Eugenics Society, although population-control was the overriding problem on which to concentrate, he was not going to be found attacking life from both ends at once. After the War he advocated voluntary euthanasia, compulsory sterilization, infanticide of the child horribly defective or deformed and painless extinction for murderers.
In the 1960s Glanville Williams dismissed associations of euthanasia with Nazism as ridiculous fancies, but the Nazis employed both abortion and euthanasia; Hitler was influenced by Darwinist and Malthusian theories, as were leading British euthanasia advocates, from Annie Besant to H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Sir Theodore Fox, one-time Lancet editor and medical director of the Family Planning Association, championed death for useless lives; after the War, Eugenics Society secretary C. P. Blacker believed the British population should be drastically reduced; he helped found the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Thus campaigners tried to force down birth rates with contraception, sterilization and abortion while advocating euthanasia.
The VELS became the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and then Dignity in Dying, but the idea of death as the rational response to suffering is now widespread. Baroness Warnock maintained in 2004: I couldnt bear hanging on and being such a burden on peopleI dont see whats so bad about that. In other contexts sacrificing oneself for ones family would be considered good. I dont see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance adding: I am not ashamed to say that some lives are more worth living than others [Y]es, if someone else decides your life is not worth living, that is very dangerous, but the [Mental Capacity] Bill would allow people to draw up living wills asking not to be revived, so it would be their own decision. However, Melanie Phillips argued: If public opinion has indeed shifted, this is due in no small measure to the falsehoods and confusion spread by pro-euthanasia campaigns which cynically exploit the terror and distress of people suffering from terminal diseases.
Fears of disability and old age have been exacerbated by high-profile euthanasia/suicide advocates, and claims that the campaign has nothing to do with disability ignore the fact that living wills are based on its avoidance; giving them legal force is to accept that preferring death to disability is a rational decision; accepting that disabled people would be better off dead is sleepwalking into eugenics. Moreover, if we accept that there are too many people - especially with climate change seen as the biggest threat, with the over-riding need to cut the carbon footprint then why stop those who wish to kill themselves? Overpopulation campaigns sprang up after the 1967 Abortion Act, and the six million abortions since then actually lessen the prospect of tightening the law who would argue that six million should be added to an already overpopulated world? The same will happen if assisted suicide, living wills and withdrawal of nourishment - all now legal - should, by appealing to the selfishness in our society, lead to a tidal wave of death among the most vulnerable.
Although the spectre of the Nazi euthanasia programme haunted the 1960s campaign, in the twenty-first century the emphasis is on choice and autonomy, the very antithesis of Nazism. Now, against a background of talk about overpopulation, carbon footprints and the cost of looking after dementia sufferers, euthanasia is back in fashion.
However paradoxically, as Manchester Universitys Prof. Raymond Tallis pointed out, the fear that greater longevity will pose a crippling burden on the NHS is a myth; older people are fitter now than ever before, but the cost of pension payments for this army of fit people has caused the Government to increase the retirement age. The population control lobby has always seen the survival of people, rather than their demise, as the problem. And yet, just as in the 1930s euthanasia was demanded for diseases, like TB, that soon after became curable, the current push for euthanasia/suicide may represent the last gasp of the campaign before a whole new range of treatments becomes available for the degenerative conditions of old age.
Legalizing euthanasia would lessen the need for new treatments, but the eugenics/population control movement always deplored mollycoddling the unfit because it meant they would survive to become a drag on the fit; nonetheless the only way to avoid going forward is to go back into the squalid, brutal world of the Third Reich, where the strong trampled the weak; not a comforting scenario, hence the need to turn murder into euthanasia, euthanasia into suicide, and suicide into a human right. In years to come, 2009 will be seen as representing a great step forward or a narrow escape from mass murder.
(November 2009 information from By Their Fruits)