Baroness Warnock: Dementia sufferers may have a 'duty to die'
Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.
The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are "wasting people's lives" because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.
She insisted there was "nothing wrong" with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.
Now, even were your humble Devil not someone who believes in individual freedom—including the freedom to kill yourself—his experiences as an Auxiliary have anyway made him a fervent supporter of euthanasia: you try being unaffected by someone who is living your worst nightmare asking you to kill them. I totally believe that people should be able to end their lives if they so wish and, if they are physically unable to do so, they should be assisted.
However, I also see that there are a number of problems with enshrining this principle in law. I also don't think that people should be guilt-tripped into ending their lives by feeling that they have an obligation to the fucking state to do so.
The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be "licensed to put others down" if they are unable to look after themselves.
... sounds like murder to me.
But in her latest interview, given to the Church of Scotland's magazine Life and Work, Lady Warnock goes further by claiming that dementia sufferers should consider ending their lives through euthanasia because of the strain they put on their families and public services.
Recent figures show there are 700,000 people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's in Britain. By 2026 experts predict there will be one million dementia sufferers in the country, costing the NHS an estimated £35billion a year.
Lady Warnock said: "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.
"I'm absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there's a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.
I wonder how many real dementia sufferers Lady Warnock has worked with? By the time that dementia becomes a massive burden to the NHS, the dementia-sufferer is almost entirely hollowed out, mentally. They may occasionally remember old memories, but most of the time they cannot even remember that they have a family, let alone actually recognise them.
One of the most vivd memories I have from working in the medical centre is that is a twelve year old boy curled into a corner in the smoking room, weeping bitterly because his father—who had once been something of a socialite—hadn't recognised his son, or even remembered that he had one.
At the same time, the father—let us call him "Simon"—seemed perfectly happy most of the time. He would chatter away, only occasionally making sense, but almost always with a smile on his face; he could dress himself with minimal help and could, for instance, shave himself (as long as someone was there to prompt him when his mind started to wander).
This was in stark contrast to "Mary" whose personality was entirely scooped away by Alzheimer's. She was a walking machine: she would walk unsteadily along, stooped like a bird, gumlessly chewing the ends of her fingers and yammering (sometimes quietly, sometimes loud). Once she came up against a wall, she would brace her hands against it and her legs would continue the shuffling walking motion—a toy robot walking against the wall and you'll get the idea.
Neither of these people would be able to make the decision to end their lives. Simon simply didn't have the wits and, besides, he was quite happy. Mary was, as far as we could tell, utterly unaware that she was alive: she was an automaton, her eyes dead and her body still moving long after her personality had ceased to exist.
Now, if you think that these people should be put down, then you could probably make a case for it—Mary, especially, would probably not notice since what made her human had long since ceased to exist.
But let's call it what it is: legalised murder. And you are going to have to make a really good moral case for that. The fact that they have a duty to die because they are a burden on the state simply isn't that case.