Thursday, 21 June 2012

Slippery slope

Tony Nicklinson is a man in the news this week because he was left paralysed and with locked-in syndrome by a stroke seven years ago, and he has called for doctors to end his life. He is asking doctors to turn the Hippocratic oath on its head because, unlike other people, he does not have the means to end his own life.

So what do 'others' do to end their own life? Do they do a Reggie Perrin and cause untold trauma to the people who discover the body? Do they throw themselves in front of a train and so end another train driver's career? I cannot think of a convenient way for people who have the ability to end their own life.

Now think of the moral implications. Even if Tony can disregard the Ancient Greeks as being old-fashioned then how does he justify his views when compared to religions that hold life as sacred?  I suppose the views of others do not concern him, but they should because doctors are other people too and he is asking them to kill him.

The analogy related to the train driver would be that Tony is asking that driver to place him on the lines and then the driver has to drive in the full knowledge that he is there.Of course there may be those who say that it is alright because Tony's are exceptional circumstances and deserve exceptional measures. The words slippery slope come to mind.

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1 comment:

  1. Tony Nicklinson died today.I hope that he has now found whatever he was looking for. He felt that he was in a desperate situation and his life was miserable, but the word that struck me was that he found his life demeaning. So how could a life be demeaning? If I am temporarily (or permanently) incapacitated by injury or illness then I must conclude that my worth has worsened. Tony would probably have said that it was different for him because of the high value he had previously put on his lifestyle and the low value he put on it with his locked-in syndrome. I don't know what he was able to do following his stroke but he could communicate. The value we put on our own lives depends on our character and maybe Tony used to hold himself in very high esteem thus leading to his demeaning comment and his misery. The trouble with values based on character is that any of us could hold ourselves in very high esteem and then our situations and opinions may change, so we could have an avalanche of those asking for assisted suicide.
    Another way of looking at 'worth' is physical. Let's say that I was a really good athlete and now I am not. My worth has changed for the worse and I can find this situation demeaning. There is an alternative and I can accept change as a positive thing. I may not be able to run 100 metres as quickly as I once did. I may not even be able to run 100 metres but the time I used to run may now be used to decorate the house or any number of other things.
    The trouble with finding a situation demeaning is that anyone in the same situation may, at best, be insulted . At worst these comments may affect their mental health and lead to them having suicidal thoughts. It may be that you don't agree with this comment and Tony's situation really was unique. Well what if I named another condition which would give similar results? What if I named ten conditions? Would you then think about a slippery slope? What about really common conditions which are also really severe? That slippery slope just got a lot slippier.