Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Duty to Die

A little old lady of 84 years of age has recently made clear that it is her opinion that if one is suffering from dementia, you are wasting the resources of relatives and carers and further are wasting the resources of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.

They are under a duty to die.

So what ?

Unfortunately the little old lady is Baroness Warnock.

Helen Mary Warnock, Baroness Warnock, DBE, FBA (born 14 April 1924) is a British philosopher of morality, education and mind, and writer on existentialism. She is an "Establishment" figure: a guide on ethics in the public sphere in the United Kingdom.

She is amongst other things the author of The Warnock Report (1984): Report of the Committee of Enquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology. This has led to legislation in the United Kingdom. Her influence is pervasive. Her comments are not to be disregarded lightly.

Surely some mistake ? No. Check out the Director of SPUC`s blog ("Baroness Warnock and a "duty to die") and the Daily Telegraph ("Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock")

And if you still don`t believe it check out BBC Radio 4` PM Programme blog where you can listen to the interview with the Baroness.

In the interview she makes clear that the economic argument of caring for someone who has no useful economic potential outweighs any argument about "the sanctity of life". In Britain this is a very dangerous proposition.

We have the National Health Service. It is supposed to look after the health of citizens of the United Kingdom from cradle to grave. It is a monopoly.

The private medical sector is extremely small and is only available to the very rich. Citizens are compelled by law to pay for the very costly and inefficient service through heavy taxation and other imposts.

Bureaucrats already impose rationing on services and resources through the backdoor and are not publicly accountable except in theory to Ministers who, of course, are not particularly bothered or involved in the minutiae of such important decisions.

Not that the service for non-disabled people is that great. Ask an American citizen here in the United Kingdom what he would do if he got ill here. He will tell you that he has been warned by his employers and his own doctors in the States not to use the Service here. In an emergency only he should go to a hospital which is attached to a University and insist on seeing a consultant privately, and then only after checking out the consultant carefully.

Anyone who has ever visited a hospital where long term Alzheimer patients are kept (assuming that they have not been kept home or shunted into a private nursing home) will know that these people are helpless. If the argument that there is a duty to die and economic factors are material in making that decision is accepted, the consequences will be appalling.