British television personality and former The Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins is well on her way into seniorhood, a stage of life that she recently told Radio Times means a person is ripe for termination. Old people, she says, should be put to sleep much like animals at the kennel because they’re too much of a drain on society, in her view, suggesting “euthanasia vans” as the solution.
When asked what she would do “if Katie Hopkins ruled the world,” the now-divorced shock columnist — Hopkins’ former husband left her, prompting her to apply for The Apprentice — told Michael Buerk that she would start by stamping out the elderly. There’s too many of them and it annoys her, apparently, so the best way to deal with this problem would be to send out crews of senior-killers to deliver euthanasia door-to-door.
“We just have far too many old people,” the disgruntled feminist told Buerk. “It’s ridiculous to be living in a country where we can put dogs to sleep but not people.”
Killing the elderly before their time can even be glamorous, Hopkins suggests. It doesn’t have to be done in a dimly-lit hospital room with grandma strapped down to a table and forcibly injected. Cutesy little vans filled with euthanasia workers can drive around town and deliver termination pills to seniors’ front doors, Hopkins says.
The typical reaction to this will be, “She’s just crazy.” But why is she crazy? What’s wrong with her argument? And does she have any valid points?
Emotions can oversimplify, and oversimplification creates confusion. Rationally, we have to distinguish between assisted suicide and euthanasia. Assisted suicide is voluntary; euthanasia is murder. Hopkins does the same thing her opponents do. She lumps assisted suicide and euthanasia together; only in her case, she calls both of them good things, while most people call both of them bad things.
People understandably have strong emotions about both euthanasia and assisted suicide. Both topics bring up the issue of death. Also, either topic can bring up uncomfortable emotions about old age, dementia, Alzheimer’s, terminal illness and loss of control over one’s mind or destiny. These are not easy subjects. However, it’s legitimate control over one’s life and destiny which makes assisted, voluntary suicide morally justified.
The root issue: We are all sovereign over our own lives. We do not, or should not, need anyone else’s permission to terminate our own life. It’s that very sovereignty which makes voluntary, assisted suicide legitimate, and which makes murder, including euthanasia, wrong. Yes, I know that a lot of people believe in a god, or some form of higher power. According to people who do, God is ultimately sovereign. You are free to believe whatever you wish. But this does not give you the right to impose the force of government—not God, but government—on people by denying them the right to engage in voluntary assisted suicide.
I don’t mean to imply that suicide is always rational or moral. I define “moral” as whatever rationally and objectively advances an individual’s life. Life, by my view of morality, is the fundamental standard of value. In that context, suicide could only make sense when life, rationally defined, is no longer tenable. However, politically and legally speaking, this judgment must be up to the individual whose life is at stake. As tragic as it might be for a person to end his own life irrationally, it’s an even greater tragedy to contemplate the government determining those decisions for us.
I recognize that elderly people and others with dementia or Alzheimer’s could be exploited. “Loving” relatives who want them gone could “persuade” them to “voluntarily” end their lives. Morally, this is tantamount to murder. The law must provide for this, in a similar manner to living wills, and the like. However, the legal complexity of some cases does not absolve the government of the obligation to respect an individual’s moral and legal right to dispose of his or her own life, as he or she sees fit. If we’re not free to die, we’re not free to live, either. Of course, the world is full of legal, political and moralistic busybodies who are just fine with imposing their choices about everything on others. That’s the true evil, both of Katie Hopkins as well as some who oppose her for the wrong reasons.
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