I get so angry when people misrepresent assisted dying in the way that Giles Fraser does in his latest op-ed in the Guardian that I could scream! Why is it that something that is, for some people, a matter of urgent concern should be dismissed with lightweight and completely inapropos remarks from someone who simply misunderstands, and, from the look of things, will go on misunderstanding until the time comes for him to die. It’s a Christian (and generally religious) determination to look at irrelevant things and then suggest — for that is what he’s doing, after all — suggest that he’s been there, done that. He’s like a tourist who breezes through London in a day and then says he’s “done London,” as if you could do more than glance at one or two things of interest in the time allotted. But Giles Fraser is especially guilty, because, not only does he get it wrong; he hasn’t even begun to understand why people are asking for help to die. And he calls himself a loose canon! This is not loose. This is positively stupid.
He entitles his piece:
Well, bully for him! That’s clear then, and his children will no doubt, when the time comes, appreciate the burden they have to bear. Of course, he may go out like a light, especially if he insists on flying so near the sun like this — or is it just the heat from his rhetoric simply melting the wax on his wings? But it’s all the usual stuff. Misdirection not to find directions out, but simply to mislead. The Anglican Church of Canada plays the same game, suggesting in its coy words that assisted dying represents a failure of community — which means, of course, abandonment, by those who can read between the lines. Here’s the key:
I do want to be a burden on my loved ones just as I want them to be a burden on me – it’s called looking after each other.
But it’s not called “looking after each other” if what the person who is suffering is asking for is help to die. It’s called coercion, then — which has a very different resonance — and if someone is being coerced into being a burden, then Fraser has simply has missed the point about what looking after each other is all about. Moreover — and this, coming from a priest, is inexcusable — it simply papers over the cracks with regard to how people die. Sometimes the burden, if Fraser really wants to know, is borne by those who are dying, and if those who are watching someone die in misery doesn’t notice this, then they are simply not watching closely enough!