Social Issues,  Thought-provoking

Don’t kill to save the NHS

Ben Weller argues that proposals to legalise euthanasia in Scotland in order to ease the financial burden on the National Health Service put the institution above human lives.

In case it’s not been broadcast enough, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has reached capacity. But there’s no need to worry, the Scots have a solution – they can just kill you off.

The Scottish Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults Bill was approved for introduction as a members bill back in September. In January, even the often liberal Church of Scotland launched a war of words against the cross-party legislation. Citing troubling patterns that have arisen in Canada since it legalised the practice, the Moderator of its General Assembly, Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields, expressed concerns that assisted suicide will become an ‘opportunity for cost saving’ which views patient care with utilitarian eyes. Against a backdrop of overstretched nurses downing tools to strike, is it really so alien to think that such dehumanisation could cross the Atlantic? 

As we continue to paint Canada as the UK’s Commonwealth brother and cultural parallel, we should be careful not to follow too closely in its footsteps. It’s easy to downplay it as a pessimistic cliché, but it’s true that the regulatory slope is a slippery one. If we don’t want to slide down it, this little corner of Britain must do something the country has long avoided. Listen to her clergy.

The strict guidelines around the proposed Scottish euthanasia law which require the consent of two doctors and a life expectancy of no more than six months sound promising. Indeed, a Dignity in Dying poll indicates that 87% of Scots support assisted suicide when complemented by these constraints. But, these proposed restraints aren’t dissimilar to those in the original Canadian law. 

Fast forward seven years and there’s one less witness in the room, the ten-day waiting period has been scrapped, palliative care is no longer suggested, and there’s debate on widening the law to encompass the mentally ill, not just those with ‘reasonably foreseeable’ deaths. This laxation has meant that perfectly healthy people are now being offered the service to quell their struggles and cut costs.

The personhood of patients is eroded by ‘medical assistance in dying’ (MAID), breeding a new fear that the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients is due to fundamentally change. Remedy will no longer be the end goal. The two-thousand-year-old Hippocratic Oath will be replaced by a doctrine of, at best, ministering to individual wants, and at worst, coercion for the sake of costs.

In one room a person could be being cured of a disease that somebody else is being killed for down the corridor.

Medicine is one of the few ‘traditional’ professions aspirational enough to capture the desire and imagination of children. Ask them why they want to be a nurse and you’ll get ‘save lives’ and ‘help people’. ‘Kill the infirm’ would, for good reason, be a rarer answer. 

The general ‘cost over care’ attitude rife in British healthcare is based on a collectivist ideal. The belief that the NHS should serve everybody is often met by the reaction that one must equally serve the NHS. This call to arms is summed up perfectly in the coronavirus era soundbite ‘PROTECT THE NHS’, demonstrating that the gluttonous money machine’s duty of care exists only when fed by the sacrifices and tender love of the British people.

Dr. David Shaw and Professor Alec Morton further demonstrate this point in a recent article. Their argument pushes the idea that granting aid in the form of assisted suicide would better not only the small minority who seek it, but the wider population. Shaw labels policymakers who ignore these supposed benefits as ‘irresponsible’ because up to £74m per year could be saved if one-third of terminally ill cancer patients sought assisted suicide.

A nation should never be expected to kill its sickly citizens because they aren’t ‘cost effective’.

The warning that Brits will soon be viewed as ‘utilitarian’ should be taken very seriously. The Assisted Dying lobby will always flaunt its polls and its popular support, but whatever is left of an evermore decrepit Scotland should be able to look the lobbyists in the eyes and insist on one thing: the dignity of their fellow countrymen.

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Ben Weller is a contributor to Young Voices UK and a young, state-educated Londoner who fights for Christian ethics in mainstream British politics through his place in various campaign and lobbying organisations, notably Conservatives for Christ. This is complimented by a continued fight to protect the British constitution from amendment. He can be seen putting these views to the public atop a ladder in Hyde Park’s infamous Speakers’ Corner.

One Comment

  • Rosemary Black

    Very good,well researched article. We need to learn from what has happened in other countries in the world and not underestimate the potential for a law like this to quickly become subject to utilitarian concerns. Well said.

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