Warnock: put down the sick, senile, elderly

“If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives — your family’s lives — and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.”

So says Baroness Warnock, who has been advocating euthanasia in Britain for a long time is at it again.

I’m too under the weather to write, but I address this troubled woman, when my brother was dying, in this piece:

Our brother has lately gone quiet. He moans and coughs. When he does speak it is a word or two, soft and hoarse and largely unintelligible. Our visits are less conversational. The time of sharing memories and managing a smile or two is past. Now, it is all about stepping outside so that our brother can be turned and resettled, stepping back inside to help him eat, stepping back outside while he is turned again.

Many would contend that what life our brother has left is only pathetic, a life of suffering and sorrow, that counts for nothing. Many would say it. What I say in response is this: My brother’s life today is exactly like his life ten years ago. It is huge, it is love-filled, and it is fraught with humanity. It is the life he has.

…I stood at the foot of the bed and saw his face as Mom drew near. Too exhausted for words, he reached for her and she took his hand. His eyes saw only his mother, and they said, “Mommy… oh, my Mommy,” and her eyes said the rest: “Son… oh, my son.”

But this is too sad, it is. Life is so very sad and so very beautiful. Some will scoff: “Beauty? What beauty? What kind of sick mind can find beauty in this pietà? It would be more beautiful to help your brother to end his suffering. Real love has nothing in common with pain. What is to be gained from all of this beside some medieval Catholic satisfaction in suffering?”

I can only answer that question with a question: Do you think that giving my lionhearted brother a “compassionate” needle would truly lessen our suffering, or his? By cutting short the process, do we step off the Via Dolorosa and avoid it all, or do we merely thwart a plan for our own lives? Should we steal from our brother the opportunity for him to reach out a hand and have it immediately grasped, to have everything about his existence affirmed, over and over?

Should we steal from ourselves the opportunity to love?

We have been trained in the secular world to disregard life as something holy and to understand that our human potential is inextricably tied to our personal freedoms and our domination over those uncontrollable matters of life: death, pain, and joy. This is a great deception. The truth is, just as human expansion upon the earth depended upon someone being willing to explore those uncharted waters marked, “Here be monsters,” our human potential can only grow when it is open to exploring the Unknowable. The vehicle for that exploration is faith. If the monsters of life are pain and suffering, fear and doubt, moving through them is what leads to discovery, growth, and — yes — holiness. God does not give us more than we can endure, but we cannot ascertain on our own precisely how much strength we have.

It is impossible to explore the depths of our potential, or its limits, if we steadfastly refuse to take the journey. But increasingly, that refusal is being regarded as wisdom.

In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords has proposed a bill to promote assisted dying for the terminally ill. The bill will “enable a competent adult who is suffering unbearably as a result of a terminal illness to receive medical assistance to die at his own considered and persistent request….”

On the surface, this seems like a humane idea; why not allow the terminally ill to choose when and how they will die? In the weeks prior to the public debate on the legislation, prominent members of the British press and certain politicians worked at guiding public opinion toward support of the bill. Journalist Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian about her mother’s wish to end her ordeal with cancer, throws angry barbs at “the cult of the natural,” which includes “the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic cardinal together claiming ‘the respect for human life in all its stages is the foundation of a civilised society.’ That is a religious view humans must endure, whatever their creator ordains. But 80 percent of the population don’t think the dying should suffer beyond what they can bear.”

Right behind Toynbee’s pained essay came Baroness Warnock in the Sunday Times announcing, “One of the things that would motivate me [to die] is I couldn’t bear hanging on and being such a burden on people…. I don’t see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance. If I went into a nursing home it would be a terrible waste of money that my family could use far better.”

Both women pish posh the idea that, in suffering and death, something greater might be at work than what our limited, earthbound sensibilities can comprehend. Neither cares to look at how such a law might allow “assisted death” to become routine whenever someone deems that another’s life is really not worth living.

Neither woman pauses to consider whether “assisted death,” much like abortion, serves to cut off avenues of love before they are fully traveled. Nor do they seem to grasp what the “cult of the natural” and the “religious view” have been trying to teach: that life brings love, and love is God; that life interrupted is love interrupted, and love interrupted is God interrupted. Nor does either woman wonder what or who is served by such interruption.

This is a bill, and a mindset, that scream out: Give me only the pastels! And the only things that can come of them are a terrible social weakness that thwarts the means by which we may grow and be strengthened — and a graceless and ignoble cultural death. For there is nothing noble or courageous in “not being a burden” on the family and finances, as the baroness recommends; rather, nobility is found in the humility of allowing oneself to be sick, in allowing others the opportunity to minister and grow through you and your ordeal. And while I cannot gainsay Toynbee’s grief regarding her mother’s death, I cannot agree with her that a quick injection could have put a better face on her mother’s end-of-life experience.

I hope you’ll read the whole piece. It really speaks to this death-loving age, to the “culture of death” that does not understand how vital it is that we – as a society – manage to hang on to, experience and live through our whole lives – even through the parts that seem “useless” and difficult – or we cease to grow and learn, and begin to dismantle our very humanity.

Vanderleun: Just die; it’s your duty: “The killing became automatic.” A chilling must-read.

Ed Morrissey explains why the Baroness should not shock you.

Ann Althouse has more.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • saveliberty

    I remember reading that article, Anchoress, and I am teary eyed all over again.

    Please feel better soon.

  • roylofquist

    Perhaps we should consider euthanasia for cheeky baronessesesses.

  • rcareaga

    I am not familiar with the writings of Baroness Warnock, but I’ve returned to a 1958 tome written by her late husband, English Philosophy Since 1900, with pleasure and edification many a time since I first perused it as an undergraduate thirty-six years ago. As to euthanasia, no one should be pressured into this: I grieve still for an old lover, dead this past winter at 53, who held fiercely to life until the eve of its end — it helped that she could afford first-class medical care with all of its state-of-the-art palliatives — but none should be compelled to drink to the dregs a cup we withhold in humanity from our very pets. I think here of the father of one of my oldest friends, who suffered dreadfully twenty years ago as the cancer romped through his vitals at the end. He begged for death; it is understood in our circle that his wife, an RN her entire career, administered this. “Graceless and ignoble?” I wasn’t present, but the half-dozen family members who’ve spoken about it to me are unanimous in their relief that his dying wish was granted by a loving wife, and would have regarded any intervention against this relief, whether framed in legal, moral, ethical or religious terms, most balefully. You are free to conclude from this account that the relatives are heartless, deluded or wicked. I feel in turn free to conclude that anyone who so concludes…

    But I have sworn an oath to remain courteous in these precincts.

    [You should read my piece over at Inside Catholic. You'll find I'm no so judgmental as you seem to think, rand - admin]

  • culperjr.

    Again, the moving target that is modern liberal culture! Let me see if I understand–those not fit to live, these thoughtless untermenschen, should allow themselves to be liquidated for the purity (or at least convenience) of the…um…dominant race?

    What an amazing person the Baroness is! She manages to be both cutting edge and retro, with a “green” spin on her otherwise brownshirted look.

    A comment in another thread warned of the danger of draping our political leanings in a religious cloak. Is that the true danger, I wonder? Viewing the world around me through the filter of my religious convictions means that, senile or not, I don’t believe we should make a habit of murdering the innocent.

    Baroness Warnock is a great ethical thinker, I hear, yet she would murder those who are inconvenient. May God grant me the strength to be too narrow-minded for that.

  • scosan

    Reading your article reminded me so much of my experience taking care of my dying step-father. He died at home surrounded by those that cared for him and I think it was really in those last few months that he realised how much he was cared for. It is easy to talk about love but it is when real sacrifices and difficult times come that we are able to fully express and demonstrate those feelings. It also shows us the incredible capacity that each of us has to reach out and be there for others. All of us grew from this experience and have a greater understanding of our capacity to give to each other. My step-father left this world knowing how much he was cared for and that he was never a burden that was too heavy for us to carry.

  • http://musing-minds.com/ Kimsch

    I left this comment over at Ann Althouse too:

    This kind of thing scares me silly. I have a disabled daughter, almost 18 years old. She is developmentally delayed, has epilepsy, a moderate hearing impairment, and was diagnosed with lupus two years ago.

    She can recognize some written words. She tries to write her name. She loves watching Barney and Blues Clues. She loves the movie Transformers and Bumblebee. She sings along with Anne Hathaway in Elle Enchanted and puts cds in her TV/DVD player so it’s a radio as she calls it.

    She calls the movie Ice Age “elephant” and Ice Age 2 is “elephant water”.

    Trig Palin will probably be more functional than my baby girl will. She probably is not going to be a “productive member of society”.

    This is why this scares me. Why socialized medicine scares me. She needs daily medication to control the seizures and the lupus. But I can see someone, somewhere, deciding that the resources she uses could be better used by someone who is or will be more productive.

    What will happen to her after I’m gone? Who will make decisions for her? Who will decide she’d be cheaper dead?

    [This is the serious failing of socialism; everything is reduced to its utilitarian base. Humanity comes second to "what is good for 'the people,' or 'the government' (who we are disingenuously told "are" the people and vice versa). That is also what makes it dehumanized and materialistic. I understand your worries. One of my brothers was ill for 30 years before he died. With Warnock's mindset, he would have been dead practically as soon as he became brain-damaged at the beginning of his illness. It's no one's place to judge the value, or worth or "quality" of someone else's life. In every case, the life of the person is...'the life he has.' It is very sad and frightening that some feel the government, the medicos or some other entity should have say over whether 'the life one has' is sufficiently useful and merry to allow the life to be lived out in its fullness. - admin]

  • pbuchta

    There are two issue s that you are discussing here. The first one is improper pain management. The second is socialized care. They do not necessarily go hand in hand.

    First, my pop had Parkinson’s when we was 79. I took care of him in my house for a year and a half before he really started getting bad. When he had to go to the nursing home because the care became too much for him, (Foley catheter, feeding tube, bed pans etc. they gave him excellent care because he had me and my mom as advocates for him. It is always important for someone to be an advocate for someone else. I don’t mean a doctor patient relationship either, but a true advocate who advocates for you. Doctor’s treat diseases of patients but dont really take care of patients. So pain managment was given by geriatric doctors at the nursing home and I went to go visit him every single day. They were extremely understanding of the situation because they had the experience that went along with old folks. Regular doctors in hospitals just don’t have that type of experience.

    Secondly, socialized medicine as practiced by the government is no good in your situation. Any politician that says that they will work for you is blowing smoke. I’ve seen it in the VA hospitals, and in regular institutions. The process has become extremely autocratic and so have their decisions. The only thing that I might suggest to folks who can’t take care of their loved ones, is to find somebody who can. Best bet would be to seek out help in local communities and surrounding areas. Get to know folks in this area of expertise. They are always good at figuring things our around the system. Have you tried reaching out to private organizations and religious institutions to see what you need to do? Set up a will for sure. Contact people who share the same experiences. The internet has much to offer information wise besides advice.

  • invernessie

    This issue is so painful for me. When discussing the Terry Shiavo issue with my family, they all talked about the stresses associated with caring for a disabled/incapacitated person. While I understood the demands on the caregivers, I was shocked that my family, would buy into the “snuffing” out of a life, no matter the (unknown) qualify of life Terry was experiencing(and why should we be the judges of?).

    I grew up with my beliefs (which through these discussions with family has become increasingly apparent that I have established solely on my own, and cling “gladly” to them). Why was the husband so adamant about terminating Terry’s life when the family was willing to bear the burden of caring for Terry? It is one thing to ensure that Terry went peacefully, but she was subjected to a starvation/dehydration ordeal that would never be permitted for the lowliest of animals without protest. The only explanation was that this method would preserve the delusions of those who felt her life was without meaning or feeling. The nuance between “removal of live support” and active euthanasia.

    Baroness Warnock – what to think of her proclamations? Is she so bitter where she ended up in the sunset of her, long-lived life (that so many would have given anything to achieve), that she thinks that lives are fungible? By her standards, the poor, stupid and criminal should also be up on the block. She has no ethics. How is one to decide on behalf of another what quality of life is worth living?

    I fear for the world when we are increasingly faced with folks who believe that anything other than perfection is permitted to live within the world. How many of the arbiters are able to live up to the standards they set for others?

  • http://opiningonline.com lfineaux

    Ethics as I understand it bear no resemblance to what Baroness Warnock proclaims.

    Perfection is not even interesting, much less desirable. Improvement, yes. Perfection, no.

  • http://futuremd.blogspot.com/ Victoria

    OT, heads up to you and your readers:

    Bill O’Reilly’s site also hacked

    They posted a screenshot of the names, emails, passwords, addresses of his Premium members.

    So if you have a registration there, CHANGE IT NOW.

    These kids are dumb. This only makes us Conservatives get angrier, and angrier and angrier.

    We vote. You don’t. Go on, give us more reasons to wipe the floor with you in this election.

    Feel better, Anchoress!


  • http://afallonspooka.blogspot.com/ z0mbeewolf

    I’m still crying over what Kimsch wrote. It has shocked me to read the different articles posted on the Baroness and saddened me to think that the UK has gone from a mind like C.S. Lewis to this tripe of the Baroness that so many liberals view as enlightenment.

  • culperjr.

    Something came to me while re-reading Baroness Warnock’s statement above. Why does she specify dementia as being the trigger for annihilation? There are many types of illness that should, in her nightmare world, be just as much a cause for death.

    I nursed my father through 13 years of prostate surgery, clinical depression, alcoholism and debilitating arthritis before congestive heart failure finally got him. Wouldn’t any (or perhaps all) of these conditions have made the Baroness want to put Dad on the chopping block?

    How about me? I’m reasonably fit, but have diabetes. Wouldn’t it be safer–and cheaper!–to snuff me now? My brother is HIV positive, so we just KNOW that he’s gonna cost someone a bundle.

    Come to think of it, Baroness Warnock is no spring chicken herself…

  • maria horvath

    Thank you for this poignant reminder, dear Anchoress, that we are all created in the image of God, even with our physical human imperfections.


    Glory be to God for dappled things

    For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;

    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

    Landscapes plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

    And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;

    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

    Praise Him.

    ~ Gerard Manley Hopkins

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  • Acer Palmatum

    God protect us if people like this get in power.

  • Piano Girl

    This is probably not a PC statement to make, but the Baroness should be happy that “ugly” is not terminal, because she would be room temperature already.

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