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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lords Debate Ethics of Dying

The British Parliament continues to debate the ethics of dying. The debate is highly charged. There are fears that permitting euthanasia would extend to new-born children, senile elderly persons or any persons deemed "surplus" by a governmental department set up to decide which people could be killed legally. But what would the guidelines or principles be in making such decisions? And who would decide on those principles?

The London Times reports, Lord Joffe's “assisted dying” Bill, rejected by the Lords last year, was, at one level, about “voluntary euthanasia”. The normal word for that is, of course, suicide. But his Bill was about those too ill to achieve that unaided - it was proposing not just “voluntary dying” but “lawful killing” by people enlisted by the patient. You can't reduce this, as Mr Aaronovitch implied, to “people having a right to end their own lives”. The question is, do other people have the right to help them do so? Those who support this Bill reckoned they do.

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