The New Death Culture

Of course, it doesn’t matter how friendly the young Plan 75 staff might be (Hayakawa wisely neglects to show us any of higher-level government functions), or how personalized the onboarding process is to each volunteer (so long as it doesn’t take too long). The minute Plan 75 was signed into law, it put an unbearable onus of expectation on every Japanese citizen of a certain age.

Now it’s as if, with each breath, they have to justify their continued existence to everyone they meet.” 

Review of new movie about euthanasia here.

The rituals associated with a rural Irish death bear witness to a strong culture of life. Typically, the terminally ill person is cared for round the clock by devoted, albeit bleary/teary-eyed relatives, and the open-coffin wake goes on for a couple of nights, and the occasion is oddly jolly. This necessary ritual is of course communal solidarity in action, but it also speaks volumes for the esteem in which a society holds its elderly, and, by implication, the esteem in which a culture holds the entirety of a life-span, from squalling infanthood to palsied old age.   

That culture is under threat from urban mores. While they’re still in a minority, there is a still small – but growing – tendency towards private houses and funeral parlours. Who can be bothered, eh?

Straws in the wind.

The new post-Christian Western death culture follows a predictable trajectory. First, they introduce abortion on hard case grounds that are difficult to argue against without being seen as heartless. Then they escalate to an abortion free-for-all. Then they introduce euthanasia on hard-case grounds that, again, are challenging to counter without being viewed as unfeeling. Then they escalate to a euthanasia f(r)ee-for-all.

The initial abortion phase wears the clothing of health-care and of human rights. It plays out like this:

1 Abortion, but only up to 12 weeks and only on the strictest grounds thereafter, such as rape, health of the mother and fatal abnormalities.  Mandatory 3-day period of reflection before confirming decision.

2 As above, but up to 24 weeks on all and no grounds, i.e., for convenience / lifestyle reasons, and scrap the reflection period.

3 As above, but full-term abortions allowed.

4 As above, but infanticide up to one week allowed.


For instance, Ireland started on phase 1, and is now rapidly and inexorably moving into phase 2, with, obviously, no serious debate. 

Think they’d baulk at phase 4?

Ha ha, think again. 

Infanticide, child murder to me and you, has long been normalised among nice, well-educated people with fine minds. 

Consider the line taken by the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University in a 2012 article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

In that article, the learned authors argue strongly for “after-birth abortion”.  They point out that “the moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a foetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual”.  Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”.  They conceded (perhaps reluctantly) that “both a foetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons”, but their key point is that neither is yet a “person” since a “person” means an “individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

In that premise, they argue that it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”; and they therefore concluded that “after-birth abortion (i.e., killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.

And see, for instance, this article in the BMJ by Mark Brown from the University of Wisconsin:

We can, if we wish, represent to ourselves a future for a fetus, but this is not something the fetus can do. A self-represented future is a terrible thing to lose but this is not a misfortune which can befall a fetus. And a potential future is not a benefit to which the fetus has a right.”

Then, having established open season on the defenceless young, they will turn their ideological guns on the defenceless old, and the defenceless poor.  The euthanasia phase wears the clothing of wokery and of compassion, and, as with abortion, they soften you up with the hard cases sob stories first, before rapidly escalating:

1 Euthanasia, but only for people with a terminal illness and who are in unbearable physical agonies.

2 Rapidly escalating to cover minor ailments, e.g., feeling a bit depressed.

3 And then being made available to anyone who is poor.

See, from this 2020 article:

In six of the eight countries where EAS (i.e., euthanasia and assisted suicide), is currently legal, mental disorders are accepted as disorders for which EAS may be granted. In four of these countries, EAS in minors with mental disorders is also accepted … The decision to grant EAS based on a perception of the patient’s illness as being untreatable with no prospect of improvement, could, thus, in many cases fail to meet the due care criteria listed in EAS laws. People with personality disorders more often wish for death for extended periods of time than people without these disorders. However, there is ample empirical data to show that suicidal tendencies and behaviour can be treated and that they fluctuate rapidly over time.”

And, from this 2021 article in the Psychiatric Times:

In 2016, Canada passed Bill C-14, a law permitting medical euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, together known as Medical Aid In Dying (MAID).5 By November 2020, more than 13,000 individuals nearing the end of life had been voluntarily euthanized as a result of this bill.

To be eligible, a patient’s natural death must be predicted to be reasonably foreseeable. This uniquely Canadian term was not statutorily defined, but it was understood to be associated with the end of life—how close was undetermined. Because death from mental disorders was not considered to be strongly predictable, mental illnesses were not eligible conditions. This feature of the law essentially prevented the kind of psychiatric euthanasia practiced in the Benelux countries.

Then, in 2019, a Quebec Superior Court ruling challenged the constitutionality of the reasonably foreseeable restriction.  As a result, a new federal bill was introduced to extend euthanasia eligibility, without the previous restriction. This new initiative, Bill C-7, followed the Benelux model; it removed the prior exclusion of those who have with nonterminal chronic illnesses and permitted euthanasia for those whose psychological or physical suffering is deemed intolerable and untreatable.

This is a profound change in the trajectory of the euthanasia law, and the practice of psychiatry for Canada, which is now the largest nation that will soon allow MAID for psychiatric conditions. It has rocked the professional mental health community in Canada, which fought to forestall the inclusion of psychiatric disorders for euthanasia.

The latest law is disappointing but unsurprising considering the huge pushes for parity and non-discrimination at all costs. Unlike the in United States, health care in Canada is considered a charter (constitutional) right. Thus, once MAID (medical aid in dying) became a medical procedure, excluding patients with psychiatric illness from this right was nearly impossible.

Countries that have allowed MAID in a limited number of cases have quickly found themselves descending a slippery slope. Prominent critic Wesley J. Smith, JD, noted, “Once a society embraces doctor-prescribed death as an acceptable answer to human suffering or as some kind of fundamental liberty right, there are no brakes. We need only look at European countries that have gone down the Euthanasia Highway to see how society is impacted deleteriously by accepting killing as a suitable answer to the problem of human suffering.”

Indeed, Belgium and the Netherlands are now debating the extension of euthanasia beyond medical conditions to include those who feel they have a completed life or are tired of living.

There is even discussion of de-medicalizing euthanasia by providing lethal over-the-counter pills. Pegasos, a self-proclaimed “voluntary assisted dying association” based in Basel, Switzerland, currently provides euthanasia for nonmedical “suicide tourists.”

And, in a survey published this month, tucked away without fanfare, we find that a small but significant minority of polled Canadians – 27% – support the idea that mere poverty should be grounds for euthanasia.    

The Brazilian authorities of course have been murdering the poor and homeless for decades. Doubtless, the polled Canadians would not bracket themselves with such thugs. In fact though, there is no material ethical distinction between them.

Our culture is atomised, and it also elevates the economic person above all others.  Woe betide you if you are not economically productive.

Never has evil presented with a blander face. 

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