Friday's Telegraph carried an article by Archbishop Nichols on "The notion of a right to a 'good death' undermines society", he places it in the context of the suicide of Sir Edward and Lady Downes.
It is, perhaps, in matters of life and death that these issues stand out most starkly. Are we really masters of our destiny? Is human life just something we produce, whether by sexual intercourse or in a laboratory, and ultimately to be created, aborted or disposed of at will? Are the senses of wonder at new-born life, or of duty towards the weak in sickness and old age, misguiding instincts that we must overcome if they conflict with our own convenience? Consequently, are we losing the capacity and skills to care for others, especially the vulnerable elderly?
Once life is reduced to the status of a product, the logical step is to see its creation and disposal in terms of quality control. This raises important questions: Who is to decide? What value is to be put on suffering that is borne with patience, or on enduring love and care for those in distress and pain?
If my life has no objective value, then why should anyone else care for it? The notion of an absolute right to choose "a good death" may sound libertarian but it undermines society's commitment to support fellow members in adversity. And it encourages the abandonment of the ailing.
Once life is entirely subject to human decision in its beginnings and endings, then the horizon of hope is dramatically reduced. I may hope to be the agent of that decision. But the likelihood is that someone else will either take it for me, or guide me towards taking it. Once the coin of sovereignty over death has been minted, then it will be claimed by not a few.