Monday, May 13, 2013

We shouldn't ask the dying to keep living

I've a column with the ABC today, 'We shouldn't ask the dying to keep living'.

It's partly a reply to Giles Fraser, in The Guardian, arguing against euthanasia.  A sample:

Life has no intrinsic value. It is, instead, valued intrinsically. This is not a pedantic point. Intrinsic value suggests something 'in' life; some given worth, which transcends valuers. It is a particularly Christian idea, which has no basis in fact. There is no divinely given soul, with divinely given worth. We value life. At best, we do so for its own sake: life as an end, not a means. 
But when we do not value life, because we have lost, for good, any moments of joy or simple contentment, it has no intrinsic value. It is not a life with pain, confusion, stench and helplessness - it is these things. Life becomes detestable. "My problem," writes Fraser, "with euthanasia is not that it is a immoral way to die, but that it has its roots in a fearful way to live." I can only reply that, for the dying or gravely ill, this fear seems well-founded and irreversible.

1 comment:

Rolly Christian said...

“Life has no intrinsic value. It is, instead, valued intrinsically. This is not a pedantic point. Intrinsic value suggests something 'in' life; some given worth, which transcends valuers. It is a particularly Christian idea, which has no basis in fact.”

Whoa Damon I detect some bad arguments here concerning the big questions on the value of human life.

Life has no value, rather it’s value is applied by others (from the measure of other observers). It may be valued by others and also self evaluated by the living entity itself (and or by a third party like designer/creator if you will permit a Christian idea extension here).

If life is of no intrinsic value, (as grossly illustrated by Dr Kermit Gnosnell’s abortion practices and more locally in the Northern Territory where a 22-23 week old aborted baby was delivered alive and left to cry for 80 hours unattended before eventually dying cold and alone), why is it we are convinced these inhumane, murderous atrocities are completely disrespectful to the value of their life?

It is because these innocent human lives do have intrinsic value – even if the others observing them or terminating them do not perceive any value worth saving? Whether a baby’s arrival is highly valued or highly unvalued – it is factually physically identical – a woman carries a growing naked baby into the world. Transmitting love or wishing destruction at the arrival of the same physical object is an irrational chasm and as inconsistent as can be conceived in one’s mind.

You could say holding a high value to human life is consistent with a reasoned humanistic morality rather than attempting to downplay Christian “values” as having no basis in “fact”. A cheap gross paring of un-similar terms.

Clearly the values we hold (or don’t agree on) are not just matter of simple physical facts measured in the science lab. I would contend these “higher order” values are derived from observations and are even more important to our society than such lower primary source facts. Values are learned and applied wisdom.

Why is love and respect more valuable to society than indifference and hate? Clearly love is more valuable and this is a factually correct statement. This is a Christian life affirming “value” supported in fact. Many conservative atheists’ are appreciative of this Christian faith “value” for its general usefulness in this regard. More widely Christian faith is wanning (in the secular west) and these values are not picking up new vocal champions who are running them into the fray – self interest and market pressures are looming larger.

Likewise holding human life in high regard is more important for respectful social cohesion when compared to holding lower disposable values concerning human life. A slippery slope is set-up if one compromises on the value of human life. For example ~ Enter exhibit A – 2012 - 2013 Syrian civil war atrocities.

Even across the bleakest amoral landscapes of our post-ethical practice of modern medicine (towards the bottom of the slope), human life is still quite valuable in gross hard dollar terms.
Whether selling a kidney in India or harvesting stem cells to test growing cures or new organs, organ dealing surgeons and large drug companies just have to cannibalise some human life to get the results they will sell on for profit.

Today secular China is borrowing/taking/extracting organs from their people in prison – nice. Does recent Marxist atheism inform their values here or does their new lust for their elite driven free market commerce set their moral compass? I’d say both. This is your brave new world of life without intrinsic value? Christian faith would help restore some objective morality and improved humanity to China.

Christian faith offers much more positive social substance and values to respect than you have afforded it.

In conclusion human life is always of intrinsic value because a value vacuum has never existed on earth with people present.