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A chilling Column

June 2011

Old people who are a drain on society’s resources should do the right thing and agree to euthanasia, according to a chilling column in the Sunday Times. Minette Marin, writing a piece called ‘The life or death decision facing the grey cuckoos in our midst’ suggested that, as the demographic time-bomb explodes, the cost on the young will be too much to bear. She pointed to figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that said one-third of the populace would be working to support two-thirds of the populace in retirement by 2050. The National Health Service has already put the cost of healthcare in the UK for the over-65s at three times the average cost of those aged between 16 and 44. To reduce the financial burden, she wrote, ‘Old people who, entirely of their own free will, decide to take their lives without pressure from anyone else are to be admired and thanked. ‘They are sparing themselves and their families a great deal of suffering and are relieving those around them and the welfare state of a burden. Surely that is an honourable act’.

Generosity

However, her views were condemned strongly by Dr Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, who said, ‘Euthanasia will not help us achieve financial stability. ‘The real answer is in our grasp, but it requires a different mindset to that which has led us, in our reckless pursuit of affluence and personal peace, to mortgage our present, bankrupt our futures, and see those who rely on us as a burden rather than a privileged responsibility. ‘We need to stop killing our children, build up our families, live more simply, give more generously and focus on providing for our dependents, especially the older generation that fought for our freedom in two world wars, provided for our health, education and welfare, and left us the legacy of wealth, comfort and security’. He said the weak elderly should not lay down their lives for a younger, stronger generation — a ‘Darwinian ethic’ — and denied that the ‘nonsurvival of the weakest’ is some kind of public duty. Writing in his blog, Dr Saunders added, ‘“Bear one another’s burdens”, says the apostle Paul, “and so fulfil the law of Christ”. ‘The demographic time-bomb is a challenge but it does not lead me to despair. Rather, it makes me want to live more simply, give, save, serve and love more, value more deeply those who are dependent — both old and young — and work harder to provide good care for all’.

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