The UK’s Independent has published an excellent feature story on the beliefs and theories of Lady Warnock, one of Britain’s most influential moral philosophers. (We’ve discussed her views previously here at SHS.) Warnock is an enthusiastic purveyor of the culture of death, supporting not only euthanasia but a duty to die. From the story, byline Paul Vallely:
Surprisingly, perhaps, she is quite happy with the notion of the “duty to die”, which most people find a good deal more controversial. A couple of months ago, in an interview with the Church of Scotland’s magazine Life and Work, she said: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives–your family’s lives–and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service. I’m fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there’s a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they’re a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.”
The journey from the right to die to the duty to die is a significant one, especially since there are many people in society who are uncomfortable even with the notion that individuals who want to end their lives have the right to ask others to help them kill themselves, or even do it on their behalf.
Warnock at least has the virtue of being honest. For example, I have argued frequently that once society accepts the philosophical premises behind assisted suicide–radical individualism and the propriety of killing as an answer to human suffering–there is no way to limit mercy killing to the terminally ill. Warnock so acknowledges:
Her philosopher’s logic takes her further out along the limb where she perches perilously distant from public common sense. “Once that principle is accepted it is irrational to confine it to those who are terminally ill.” Anyone who wants to die should be helped to do so–the old, the miserable, the mentally ill.
And of course, she opposes human exceptionalism, the concept of “rights,” and thinks the “slippery slope” is nonsense–despite it being clearly evident in her own statements.
The article is too long and detailed to go into further, so I urge you all to read it for yourselves. And, unlike many such profiles published today, the reporter generously includes many rebuttals from fine spokespersons.
And that is what gets me: Those who support the sanctity/equality of human life have now been reduced to mere reactors to people with Warnock’s views, when any attention is paid to them at all. At the same time she and others of her general ilk have become voices of influence, respected by government leaders, media members hanging on their every word, their photographs appear in the world’s most respected news magazines, published in venerable journals, honors bestowed, huge speaking fees given, the subject of sometimes fawning documentaries, and tenured chairs provided by the world’s most prestigious universities.
But people who believe in the intrinsic value of all human life, who accept Jefferson’s declaration of the inalienable right to life, who believe that one of our most important human duties is to care lovingly for those who can’t care for themselves, are rarely accorded the same respectful treatment–no matter their credentials or eloquence–and indeed, are more often disparaged as basing their views in religion instead of reason (as Warnock does), besides being castigated as intolerant, moralistic, and judgmental. (As if there is anything wrong with a world view founded in religious values and only religious people believe in universal human equality and oppose euthanasia and the duty to die.)
The problem with all of this is that we are creating a society less able to love.