I have already written about the inherent conflict between past, present and future generations for earthly resources.
I thought, while I was at it, it was worth taking a few minutes to explore the future euthanasia and the great grey area mess of ethics around this concept.
First, some definitions:
Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.
Senicide/geronticide is the abandonment to death, suicide, or killing of the elderly. This practice of (oftentimes literally) putting granny out to pasture when she was no longer of much use to the herd was very popular all over the place, from Greece to Serbia (“lapot”) to India (“thalaikoothal”) to Japan (“ubasute”) in the not too distant past.
While similar in result, the two practices are distinctly different in intention. The first is (usually) voluntary, or at least done with good intentions along the lines of “ending suffering”, and the second is, well, decidedly involuntary, usually done with more practical economic considerations in mind. Murder. Not very civilised. Not very modern.
Today, as lifespans get longer, as medicine gets better at keeping people alive, oftentimes against their will (and as the social safety nets all too often foot the bill for said life-extending treatments get exponentially more expensive), the subject of euthanasia is one that we cannot afford to ignore.
After all, having free will over your own life is not free will if you don’t get to choose how your life ends.
When it comes to legalising such things, it is important to note that the legality, or not, thereof is really to protect the interests of the living relatives and caregivers left behind, not the actual subject of the service. (Much in the same way that giving robots “rights” is more to do with limiting the responsibilities of humans than it is to do with giving nice things to the robots.) After all, although suicide may be illegal, there is not much a state can do in the way of prosecuting a successful one.
A few countries, such as The Netherlands and Belgium, both of which legalised voluntary euthanasia in 2002 (and several forms of non-voluntary euthanasia since), let people choose to die when and where they like, with the blessing of the state and limited liability for the people who help them leave the way they want to go.
Since then, demand for euthanasia in the Netherlands has “soared” to 7,000 cases a year, up 67% on five years ago. Likewise, today, nearly one in twenty deaths in Belgium is now of a deliberate (yet legal) cause (i.e doctor-directed euthanasia).
People from all over the world who do not live in such friendly jurisdictions are willing to pay up to $6,500 dollars (excluding travel expenses) to travel to the top European death clinics.
Even before you get to the whole dirty business of funerals, life insurance, and estate taxes, death is big, big business.
(Death-tech, aka end-of-life technology, including virtual reality palliative-care nurses, algorithmic doctors, and post-life simulations is also big business, but that’s another subject for another day.)
However, having free will to end your life, is not really free will if you don’t get to opt out of euthanasia.
Already, since the Netherlands and Belgium legalised euthanasia, there have been thousands of “unrequested”, um “procedures”.
A study titled “Recent Trends in Euthanasia and Other End-of-Life Practices in Belgium,” found Belgian doctors deliberately “hasten the death” of over 1,000 patients a year “without an explicit request” – accounting for a full 1.7% of all deaths in the country.
Does this mean that that senicide is well on its way back into social acceptability?
The economic incentives, for relatives and governments alike, certainly point in that direction.
Should granny and granddad be worried?