I knew Bristol was liberal; the city is famous for it. Me? I have traditional values, I am involved with the Conservative party, and I have been a Christian my whole life. But when I got an unconditional offer to study a course at the University of Bristol which ranked third in that subject, I accepted it without hesitation. Nine months into living here and I have seen advertisements for climate-crisis bake sales, intersectional feminist poetry slams, and students “occupying” the Wills Memorial Building (and subsequently whinging that their vegan Deliveroo wasn’t able to reach them) in solidarity with striking lecturers. However, having nonchalantly followed Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatres on Twitter to see if any shows piqued my interest, I saw something that one couldn’t just dismiss as liberal lefty nonsense – this was something truly horrifying.
Tobacco Factory Theatres retweets ThisEgg (a theatre company) promoting their new show, The Family Sex Show (also promoted by The Guardian) The title is possibly alluding to incest, to Red Light District sex shows, and is definitely intended to shock. Already feeling slightly disturbed, I read on. The age recommendation is 5+ and the show description reveals it is intended as “an alternative to porn”. I read on to learn that “there is nakedness, yes. At one point in the show, everyone on stage takes their clothes off…” This is ringing every alarm bell possible.
Posing as “sex education”, the adults involved (who were hastily cast via Twitter only a month ago) don’t seem to know the first thing about safe, age-appropriate sex education. What five-year-old needs an alternative to pornography? Exposure to pornography is often used as a desensitising tactic when grooming children. In defence of this horror show, the website claims that “sexual development and behaviour in children starts from birth”. This is an argument which I have only previously heard from a documentary about PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) to justify removing the age of consent.
Speaking of consent, which this show claims to teach us all about, I have to question why the “actors” get to choose their level of comfort when stripping. A five-year-old child, however, cannot consent to seeing naked strangers. The only guidance for parents is that they can leave if they feel uncomfortable, yet the theatre manager has written extensively on how the actors will be supported if there was negative feedback. How, I ask, are the “actors” the victims in this situation? This show seems to be all about what the adults want to do in front of the children, convinced that they know best. Cyber-flashing has just become a crime, and yet the cast of The Family Sex Show feel it is their right to flash infant-school-aged children. Many Twitter commenters reminisced over days when “dirty flashers” would be chased off by police. Now, liberal parents pay them ten pounds a ticket to bare all on stage. These people do not deserve to be parents.
My sex education at school took place in Year Six. We were ten and eleven years old and were taught about sex and puberty in an age-appropriate, sensitive, non-embarrassing way. The teachers, surprisingly, didn’t find it necessary to strip naked and point to their genitals to get the message across. Most of my generation will have had a similar experience and don’t feel we have gaps in our knowledge. Of course, we have all witnessed the odd person getting changed at the beach rather indiscreetly – but this is contextual, and hopefully accidental. If children are taught that it is normal for strangers to want to show their genitals to them, then this completely undermines the preventative measures that parents, and trusted adults, take against grooming. And as for the argument that “children will encounter porn anyway, so why not teach them about it now?” I worked in Early Years education for four years and I didn’t meet a single five-year-old who could read, write or type well enough to access pornography. And if parents leave it accessible to children, someone needs to call CPS.
I am just thankful that the live show and tour was all suspended during the multiple lockdowns, or we could be two years into child-traumatising theatrical sex shows. The Twitter outrage has been huge, and the account, Libs of TikTok, made famous by Joe Rogan’s podcast, shared the story, at my request, to an audience of 591.3k angry followers. We also have riled up over 800 Bristolian mothers on Mumsnet who have taken this story to the Daily Mail, started a petition, and are boycotting the theatre. Grown adults are being paid to strip in front of little children, in UK theatres, funded by the National Lottery and Arts Council England. Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatres want your money! In return, you and your five-year-old can watch simulated sex acts followed by a stage full of strange adults exposing their genitals. I have never been more horrified.
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By Tom Sullivan — 5 months ago
The new Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, in his first newspaper interview since taking up the position, called for British weapons manufacturers to set up shop in Ukraine and revealed discussions with Zelensky about the Royal Navy getting more involved in the Black Sea.
The biggest potential escalation was his suggestion that British military instructors be moved into Ukraine.
“I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well.”
As of yet, the UK and allies have avoided a formal military presence in the conflict due to the risk of direct conflict with Russia, so these were major policy changes being floated.
The same day, former Russian President and now deputy chairman of the country’s influential Security Council, Dmitri Medvedev, posted on Telegram that such moves bring World War Three closer.
‘[This will] turn their instructors into a legal target for our armed forces… understanding perfectly well that they will be ruthlessly destroyed. And not as mercenaries, but namely as British NATO specialists.’
Just over two hours later, the Prime Minister had pushed back at the Defence Secretary’s comments telling reporters on the first day of his party conference there were no immediate plans for this:
“What the defence secretary was saying was that it might well be possible one day in the future for us to do some of that training in Ukraine. But that’s something for the long term, not the here and now. There are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict.”
Leaving aside Mr Shapps’ questionable ministerial record and lack of obvious suitability for his brief, this incident (which was conveniently brushed under the carpet of the Tory conference) raises some serious questions about decision making at the MoD.
Was this interview cleared with No. 10 and if so, are they now backtracking? Or did the Defence Secretary go off script and unsuccessfully try to use his own initiative?
Or was this government floating an idea and testing the waters? If so, they got their answer quick.
The sight of British soldiers returning in body bags in an election year might not be a big vote winner.
Government’s decision to ramp up support for Ukraine and double down on its all-or-nothing position comes as cracks in the alliance grow wider by the day.
As all this was unfolding, Slovakia was electing its next parliament, with an anti-Ukraine party winning the election. The country has already halted military aid to Kiev, joining the Hungarians.
Just two weeks ago, one of Ukraine’s strongest allies, compared it to ‘a drowning man’.
A dispute over grain exports got so bad that the Polish president said:
‘The drowning man is really clinging to anything available and it is somehow what the situation between Poland and Ukraine is like today… it is clinging to anything available. Can we hold grudges against them? Of course, we can. Do we have to act in a way to protect ourselves from being hurt by a drowning one, of course, we have to act in a way to protect ourselves from being harmed by the drowning one, because once the drowning man hurts us, it will not get help from us.’
This was quickly followed by the Polish prime minister announcing: “We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons.”
Next week will see Poland have its own elections, and like Slovakia, an anti-Ukraine party is doing very well in the polls, with hopes to be kingmaker.
The United States is not immune from political division over the conflict, with various presidential candidates from Donald Trump and Vivek Ramaswamy to Robert F Kennedy Jr calling for its end.
Domestic political pressure and war fatigue aren’t the only factors creating friction between Western capitals. After 20 months of being told victory is round the corner, reality is starting to bite.
This week NATO’s most senior military official told the Warsaw Security forum the West is running out of ammunition for Ukraine. Admiral Rob Bauer said: “The bottom of the barrel is now visible.”
UK Defence Minister James Heappey also added that the West’s stockpiles were ‘looking a bit thin’.
This might explain the eagerness to have British weapons manufacturers ramp up production by setting up factories in Ukraine, but it does not explain the stubborn continuation of a failed strategy.
A policy should be judged by its results and as of writing, Ukraine has lost hundreds of thousands of its young men, millions more have fled, its economy is decimated, and its state is on life-support.
Russia, meanwhile, has weathered the sanction-induced storm which turned out to be a strong breeze rather than the predicted tornado. Its economy has not only held up but is on track to grow.
NATO’s eastern flank, be it Turkey, Hungary, now Slovakia and potentially Poland, is already publicly disagreeing and diverging from the Washington-London line, and this is likely to continue.
And the Washington line, as we have only seen too well over the last decade, is liable to change rapidly depending on the outcome of the next election.
So, can Britain afford to continue its Johnsonian zeal for trying to fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian, or is it time to take back control of our foreign policy and start thinking seriously about Europe’s long-term security architecture?
I would hope that the government concerned with ‘long-term decisions for a brighter future’ would be reassessing its policy.
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By Lee Marshall — 1 year ago
A country is first and foremost its people.
Despite my best efforts I cannot remember where I came across that phrase, nor will I be so brazen to claim it as my own. Nonetheless, it has always struck me as being axiomatic, and current events in Eastern Europe have given me reason to reflect on it further.
The West, including our own country, has since the end of World War II (and in some circles even before then) eschewed notions of national identity and even the concept of the nation itself. Borders are seen by many as a physical expression of violent exclusion and “othering” of fellow human beings, who should be given immediate and untrammelled access to any society they wish; free at any point to up and leave for another.
Politicians, organisations and members of the public alike, particularly those on the Left, are quick to espouse the idea that migration and asylum are human rights, which sit above the rights and privileges that attach to existing citizens.
A cursory glance through the Guardian’s migration articles tells you everything you need to know about how the Left views borders and the right to self-determination in 99% of cases involving the West. They unceasingly extol the supposed virtues of multiculturalism and appear to truly believe in the idea of open borders, with scant regard to the existing people of a nation.
Yet on one matter, the notions of inviolable borders, the nation, its people and the right to self-determination have come flooding back into consciousness and are being defended vociferously by those who otherwise have spent the last 80 years denigrating them and holding in contempt those who seek to re-establish them as common sense norms.
What is it about the ensuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has stoked the fires of righteous indignation in defence of a nation presently undergoing a hostile invasion by another?
Surely the mounting death toll plays its part in this reaction. But I am not convinced that is all.
What we are witnessing, it seems to me, is on some level a tacit realisation and acknowledgement that there is after all such a thing as a nation state, a specified people attached to and belonging in that nation state, and the right of that people to remain distinct, separate, independent and free to maintain their own homeland. It is tacit, not because those who express dismay at the current situation do so silently, but because they do not openly admit the source of their opposition to Putin’s aggression.
Back in July 2021, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin wrote an article, published on the Kremlin’s official website – On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians – in which he outlines the common bonds that ultimately make Russians, Ukrainians and indeed Belarusians one and the same people.
“Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus” he writes, “bound together by one language (which we now refer to as Old Russian), economic ties, the rule of the princes of the Rurik dynasty, and – after the baptism of Rus – the Orthodox faith…[which] still largely determines our affinity today.”
Of the constituent republics of the now defunct USSR, he says “Of course, inside the USSR, borders between republics were never seen as state borders; they were nominal within a single country.”
Mr Putin argues that “some part of a people in the process of its development…can become aware of itself as a separate nation” who should be treated “with respect.” He even goes as far as to suggest that those people should be welcome to establish a state of their own, but only after a satisfactory answer has been proffered to the question “But on what terms?”
It is clear that he does not truly believe the Ukrainians (or Belarusians for that matter) are as distinct from Russians as they like to believe. This he confirms later, essentially repealing his earlier platitudes, when he writes “But the fact is that the situation in Ukraine today is completely different because it involves a forced change of identity.” In other words, whilst some people undergo a change in identity and should be allowed to go their own way, this is not the case in Ukraine who have had such a change imposed upon them; a change it appears Mr Putin feels is incumbent upon him to help them resist.
Leaving aside the moral questions surrounding Mr Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and whether he is justified in his view of the Ukrainians being fundamentally Russian, let us explore the principles he is applying.
What Putin is suggesting here is that the Russians and Ukrainians, though occupying separate, autonomous territories, comprise the same people, united by a common ancestry, language and heritage. In other words, the lineage of Ancient Rus endures, despite some fragmentation here and there along with the establishment of states independent from one another.
Such a set-up has historical precedent. The Ancient Greek City States were seen as being inhabited by fundamentally the same people – Greeks – yet each with their own independent territories, the citizens of which took on an identity derived therefrom whilst simultaneously maintaining their overarching Greek identity. One could be a Spartan and a Greek, or an Athenian and a Greek. Either way, one was still a Greek.
This shines light on something quite interesting in terms of the conception of a people. For, and I have long been aware of this, one’s citizenship merely denotes one’s rights and status within a state, not one’s membership of a people.
In other words, membership of a people, whilst it could be enshrined in law (and I think there are good arguments it should be – this appears to have been the impetus behind the idea of the nation state to being with, now weakened by lax immigration policy and the doctrine of multiculturalism), ultimately pre-exists that law and the citizenship that might formalise it. As Sir Roger Scruton wrote: “Nations emerged as forms of pre-political order that contain within themselves the principles that would legitimise sovereign government.”
This idea of pre-existence is quite clear in Putin’s understanding of the underlying indivisibility of Russians and Ukrainians. Yes, they occupy different states and maintain distinct citizenship. But, crucially, just like the Greeks, they share an overarching identity and membership otherwise not indicated by co-habitation of the same land.
No doubt millions of Ukrainians would reject this view point. Yet, in doing so, they too would be applying the same principle – namely that their being Ukrainian pre-exists the Ukrainian state. In fact they could reasonably argue, in contradistinction to Putin’s claims, that it is this very pre-existence which endows the Ukrainian state with its right to exist separately from Russia. Their very sense of themselves as a nation acts as the motivation behind their dogged defence of their national territory.
When it is said that a people have the right to self-determination, as many are now saying of the Ukrainians, which “people” do they mean? I think they can only reasonably point to a people who would in the absence of a state to call their own continue to be extant and identifiable.
If, for example, the state of Ukraine underwent a sea-change in its population such that the members of Ukrainian society, Ukrainian citizens, were largely Germans or Somalis or indeed a farrago of peoples of widely varying languages, cultures, customs, religions and historical descent/heritage, they would be Ukrainian in name only, solely by virtue of their citizenship. Assuming those who we presently know and recognise to be Ukrainian people occupy another region of the world, would they not continue to be Ukrainian notwithstanding that the territory of Ukraine would have been abandoned?
In fact it is quite obvious that Ukrainians are considered a people in their own right by the intention of the International Court of Justice to investigate claims of genocide as a result of the conflict.
According to Article II of the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide is defined as specified acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”
I would submit that an awareness of a pre-existing membership of a particular and identifiable people has long been found in those of us who believe in nation states and borders. But I would also argue that that same awareness can be found in those on the Left who are denouncing the Russian invasion. For if Ukrainians are not a people in their own right, why should they have self-determination? If, as Putin holds, they are Russians, does it make sense to say that they are entitled to that determination? It would be tantamount to asserting that Russians are entitled to self-determination from Russians. Applying that logic, there should be no opposition to Surrey declaring a bona fide independence from the rest of England.
If those crying out in defence of Ukraine do not see a people that pre-exists its nation state, but rather a people identified only by the continued existence of that state, they nonetheless do acknowledge that Ukrainians are a distinct and separate people albeit merely by virtue of citizenship, irrespective of background.
Let us assume for a moment that is the correct view. This does not change the fact that Ukrainians, even by admission of the Left, have the right to decide for themselves their own future. Such a freedom must surely be unfettered, meaning that any and all decisions that could affect them within their borders should be within their exercise of control.
I think the notion of a people based on pre-existence to a state, though manifested and formalised by the creation of a state – a homeland – is the better one, without which the nation state is less well-grounded and defensible. Another reason is that if a people are identified by the existence of the state they occupy, what happens if that state ceases to exist?
None of this is to diminish the role that territory plays in the identity of a people. On the contrary, and as alluded to above, that role is of paramount importance.
The occupation of territory, together with the establishment of institutions endowed with a sense of identity and which reflect the culture of its people, is a direct manifestation of that pre-existing status that subsists in the absence of a law that enshrines and protects it.
Scruton put it thus: “National loyalty marginalises loyalties of family, tribe and faith… [placing] before the citizen’s eyes…a country…defined by a territory, and by the history, culture and law that have made that territory ours.” He goes on to say that “Nationality is composed of land, together with the narrative of its possession.”
As such, the nation state of a people – their homeland – becomes as much a part of their identity as their cultural practices. The loss of that homeland does not to my mind destroy them as a people but it is certainly a gross offence against their identity which serves to alienate them from themselves, even if not completely.
In this way, and as now brought to our attention in the most alarming of ways, borders matter. But more than that: the reaction to the invasion of Ukraine proves to us we already knew that, including those who ceaselessly advocate for the right of all and sundry to enter a Western country as if it were more their right to do so than our right to preserve our sense of who we are by exercising full control over our borders.
Russia might be invading Ukraine with tanks; the United Kingdom has been invaded by other means – unwanted mass immigration which has encouraged millions to arrive with their own cultures and sense of who they are in distinction to us who were already here and whose sense of ourselves is intimately bound up in our own homeland, its institutions and its history – now all under assault for being less than perfect and not reflective (rightly so) of peoples whose cultures and identities evolved thousands of miles from our shores.
It is time we recognised that if, as I would agree, Ukraine has a right to exist for the benefit of Ukrainians, detached from Russia and free to determine its own future, we in the West and in particular Great Britain, have that right also. We, too, are a people. Our state, our kingdom, might be the result of a unification of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish peoples, but each of us retains our own unique character and, importantly, homeland. Although there is some agitation to dissolve the union in Scotland (and in some parts of England), the preservation thereof derives from continuing mutual agreement without impinging on that uniqueness.
The same cannot be said for the results of mass immigration and multiculturalism which, whilst allowing newcomers to preserve their identities, serves to undermine ours whose is expressed in the country we have for a thousand years called home, but is now threatened with having to accommodate increasingly vast differences while losing the benefit of a retreat to somewhere recognisably ours such as was available to Englishmen and Scotsmen alike prior to 1945.
Any student of history can point to numerous examples of the inherent difficulties in establishing territorial dominion over multitudinous peoples who differ so widely in matters of culture and identity that open conflict eventually bursts out and engulfs the region. The situation as we face it in Great Britain, brought about by absurd notions of cultural relativity, is unsustainable.
The circumstances in which Ukraine now finds itself are objectively much more urgent and dire and, admittedly, have come about in a different manner: but the intended outcome is the same. Putin is, after all, making an attempt to reabsorb the Ukrainian people into a Greater Russian family, thereby extinguishing their identity. He will fail to do this absolutely, but if he succeeds in establishing dominion over the territory that otherwise acts as a significant expression of who they are, their identity will be materially reduced.
Such a loss would not necessarily mean a displacement of the Ukrainians to other lands, but the incursion of other peoples’ customs and laws, however similar Putin might hold Ukrainians and Russians to be. In this way, the expression of the Ukrainian people via a country and institutions that becomes less recognisable to them will serve to alienate them and prevent them from self-realisation and determination.
The Left knows this. They know that borders provide a delineation between “us” and “them” – this is of course why they hate borders. Yet in the case of Ukraine that same knowledge prompts them to defend, at least in word if not deed, the rights of the Ukrainian people to maintain a homeland for themselves.
If Putin does manage to subdue Ukraine in the immediate term, the longer term will be much more difficult. The Ukrainian people’s conception of themselves – a conception that pre-exists their own nation state – will likely prompt them to persevere in re-establishing it.
A country is first and foremost its people. But we in the West would do well to remember that if a people lose entitlement and independent jurisdiction over their homeland, whilst they might continue to endure in some form or other, their destiny will no longer be in their hands.
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By Jake Painter — 1 year ago
“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.”Psalm 71:9
I, like many others, am no stranger to a family member who has suffered an undignified death. To see a loved one who previously beamed with vitality and independence to go out in a certain manor is inconceivably hard. At one point, I did think would it not be best if my loved one and the loved ones of many other people, have the chance to die with dignity. That is what it comes down to for many people who are in favour of euthanasia – giving dignity to those who have lost it. I have no doubt that many have good intentions when it comes to euthanasia. What I fear and wish to highlight however is that in our desire to bring dignity to those who are nearing the end of their lives, we’ll be exposing a great many more people to an even worse indignity.
We see this indignity play out in real life – most notoriously – in Canada. Perhaps the most famous example came in February 2022, when a Canadian Woman by the name of Sophie (from Ontario) ended her life after she was unable to secure affordable housing because of her chronic illness and was unable to live with her meagre disability payments. This is far from an isolated case either as there have been other Canadians in a similar position who have felt they’ve had no choice but to end their lives. When discussing bringing about greater indignity – we’re not just talking about on a personal level for these poor individuals. As tragic as the individual cases like Sophies are, the question must be asked what are the structural problems within Canadian society that cause such tragedies such as these to happen?
It should be no surprise to anyone that Canada has some of the lowest spending on social care out of any developed nation; with waiting times being unbearable. Palliative care is also only being available for a select few. It is no coincidence either that this deteriorating situation in both sectors comes off the back of Canada’s liberalisation of euthanasia over the past several years. The numbers suggest this to be the case. Before the 2021 Bill C-7 entered into force, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer published a report about the cost savings it would create. Whereas the old system (based around the 2016 C-14 law that legalised euthanasia in the first place) saved $86.9 million per year – Bill C-7 would create additional net savings of $62 million per year. Healthcare, particularly for those suffering from chronic conditions, is expensive; but assisted suicide only costs the taxpayer $2,327 per ‘case’.
Why – with the obvious financial advantage outlined above that euthanasia brings – would the state in Canada have any incentive to fix the serious issues with its healthcare system? For that matter, why would any state that legalises euthanasia do so either? Simply put, if the state finds it cheaper to simply let you die, then it will more often than not allow for public services to deteriorate. This is what creates the indignity for the greater number of people. It creates indignity for those who can’t proper healthcare, it creates indignity for the disabled who can’t get the care they deserve, it creates indignity in general for the vulnerable in our society who quickly become viewed as a nuisance and would be better if they simply went away.
This is ironic considering that since – for most of Joe Public at least – euthanasia is propagated on compassionate grounds. That compassion is almost out of a sense of social duty towards our fellow man that they should be able to die in a dignified way. What cases like in Canada should demonstrate however is that there is a massive difference between the principle and practical implementation of euthanasia. I would argue however that the practical implementation of euthanasia demonstrates a much more sinister motive amongst our ruling elite. One utilitarian in nature.
Jeremy Bentham is not a widely known philosopher – at least not when you’re referring to Joe Public. He’s not as widely recognisable as say Marx or J.S.M. He is arguably however one of, if not the most consequential philosopher in modern history. The basic premise of Bentham’s philosophy is that society and the state should base its decisions on creating the greatest good for the greatest number. Whatever serves the majority interest is in of itself correct. Euthanasia is arguably the purest embodiment of the utilitarian method. As we see with Canada, Canadian law makers see euthanasia (or MAID, as they call it) as a means of saving money and gradually emancipating themselves from the responsibility of looking after the most vulnerable in society. The greatest number in this case is the Canadian tax payers and the greatest good is saving them a load of money. From a purely utilitarian point of view, this is perfectly fine; but I would argue that this is far from the moral thing to do.
Again, utilitarianism may be not a well-known philosophy but it is one of the most consequential in human history. From the workhouse to the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century – many of the evils in recent human history have based their understanding on the basic utilitarian premise: providing the greatest good for the greatest number. This is not to say that any application of the utilitarian method is bad. It is to say however that you cannot base policy purely on this method – whether it is in the benevolent desire of allowing people to die with dignity or whether by the more sinister application of ridding society of its undesirables. Any application of the method should always be tempered by a strong moral value system.
For Those who have read ‘A Brave New World’ would know one of the things that makes the world of that book so dystopic is its prolific use of euthanasia. Once one reaches the age of 60 in the book, citizens are – whilst not explicitly mandated by the state –heavily encouraged to end their lives. Once you reach past that age, you are seen as more of a burden to society; so it’s best for everyone if you died. This highlights another consequence that will arise from the legalisation of euthanasia. Not only (as highlighted above) would euthanasia encourage the state to rid itself of its duties towards the citizens it governs over but it would make society more brutal in general. A new zeitgeist will form amongst the public, where the value of life is greatly diminished. People will also lose their sense of duty towards their fellow man and start thinking why they should their tax money be spent looking after the most vulnerable in society when they can so easily be disposed of. If the state doesn’t have the idea first, then I should imagine that the state will face grassroots pressure from the public to negate its duties towards the vulnerable. Far too many aspects of A Brave New World have already become a reality in our modern society: I would rather if this didn’t become another prophetic part of our everyday life.
Arguably though, the greatest philosophical/moral argument against euthanasia is that death in of itself is undignified. As a close friend of mine working in policy said to me, there is no dignity in dying. Ever. Dying is always a great humiliation; which can only be alleviated by a clear conscience, family, friends, and having your affairs in order. Death is a sentence passed on all of us: it is the great equaliser. Whether you die soiled and limp or die through sedation and euthanising drugs; the result is ultimately the same: death. As such, euthanasia is a trick to con people into thinking they have agency over that humiliation, but they don’t. That is the great lie that is propagated.
But do we have reason to believe that many of the real world and theoretical issues associated with euthanasia would become a reality in the UK? Yes, the precedent is there in spades unfortunately.
Possibly the most notorious example in the UK is the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). Created in the late 1990s in order to provide good palliative care for those reaching the end of their lives, the LCP was initially well received. It became clear by the early 2010s though that things were seriously wrong. There were multiple scandals of malpractice; including purposefully dehydrating patients for days or leaving them sedated, meaning they were unable to ask for food or water. The Pathway was announced to be ending by July 2013 by ministers but by December 2013 it was clear that the programme was simply being rebranded. What’s worse is that the new draft guidance from 2013 stated that any patients unable to swallow could be denied food and fluids by tubes unless a hospital team decides it is in their “best interests” to have them. This goes further than current laws which only allows such practices for patients assessed and found to lack mental capacity. One eery similarity that was found with the LCP and the Canadian experiment is that it was found in 2012 that many patients were sent to the LCP without their or their families consent in order to save money. An additional financial incentive to encourage patients to end of life care has also been present since the 2001 Palliative Care Review, where hospitals get more funding if they put more patients on end of life care.
This is not even mentioning the NHS’s history of ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) orders. Around the same time when the LCP was unravelling, there were scandals with NHS Trusts misusing said DNR orders. From May to December 2011 for example, eight Trusts were warned because of such malpractice. University Hospitals Birmingham were warned twice in the previous two years alone and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – one of the hospitals that came under the Trust – was found in June 2011 by the CQC of not always involving patients or relatives in DNR decisions.
Perhaps one of the most famous and tragic cases of the NHS’s misuse of DNR orders is the case of Janet Tracey in 2011. Janet Tracey had been diagnosed with lung cancer and had fell and broken her neck in February 2011. She died 16 days later. Her husband David Tracey launched allegations that the medical staff at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge where his wife resided, unlawfully issued DNR orders without his wife’s consent – cancelling the first DNR order after she objected and days later adding another to her medical notes without her consent or any discussion. David Tracey took the hospital to the Court of Appeal and won in 2014, with the court ruling that the hospital acted unlawfully. The Tracey judgement did set the precedent that hospitals/Trusts had to inform patients if DNR order has been placed on their records but that judgement doesn’t seem to have been respected fully. Recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, 508 DNR’s were issued from March 2021 to March 2021; ignoring the legal precedent set by the Tracey case. Only last year did a long-term anti-war and peace activist Eric Levy pass away from a double tragedy of having a DNR placed on him and him being put on a rebranded Care Pathway.
This – I must stress – is not an exercise of trashing the NHS in particular. In fact, it’s safe to assume that many issues the NHS has faced and would face if euthanasia was legalised would be faced by most, if not all healthcare systems across the globe. This being said though, with the prospect of euthanasia being legalised becoming more apparent in the UK, looking at the precedent set within our own healthcare system is vitally important, and if we’re being honest here, the picture is not good. One can talk about the need to implement proper safeguards if euthanasia was legalised in this country – which would certainly be pertinent to do. The problem is that the NHS has – on multiple occasions – failed to implement proper safeguards for patients who were reaching the end of their lives in the past; so what makes one think they will implement the appropriate safeguards when/if it’s legalised? It may sound harsh but it’s far from an unfair question to ask, people’s live literally depend on it after all.
The concerns around euthanasia do not just potentially affect those who are of unsound body but also of ‘unsound’ mind. Turning back to Canada, Canada’s C7 Bill will, by March 2023, allow for assisted suicide for people with a whole range of mental health issues; which include but not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, personality disorders, or schizophrenia. Unlike in the Netherlands however, there is no need for a doctor to agree that euthanasia is necessary, it’s entirely subjective and based on the afflicted feelings at the time. Even in the aforementioned Netherlands, where the regulations for psychiatric euthanasia is nominally much more strict, the practical checks and balances are sketchy at best. After euthanasia has taken place, the doctors have to submit a report to one of the 5 regional review committees, but the positions on the committees are not full-time roles and they cannot be a specialist in every case, as they have to handle around 6,500 per year (which is not a small number considering the Netherlands size). As a result, the doctor is always right in effect, with there only being one case where a doctor has been prosecuted for breaking the 2002 law. This is in a country that has significant more experience with psychiatric euthanasia and still struggles. One can only imagine the huge amounts of extra bureaucracy that would be needed in the UK to make sure such a practice was properly regulated.
Which poses the question, how do you properly regulate it? Unlike physical illnesses, a medical professionals opinion on mental illness is much more subjective and less definitive. This is a question that needs to be satisfactorily answered because the real world application of euthanasia demonstrates that psychiatric euthanasia will eventually come. I particularly worry about this since we live in a world of millennial/Gen Z nihilism. Sure we like to joke on the internet about it but the sort of satire culture that has emerged around this nihilism amongst the younger generations is based of a genuine feeling of despair much of the time. Legalising psychiatric euthanasia without the necessary safeguards (if the ability to create said safeguards are even possible), along with the growing nihilism and mental health problems arising from the younger generations, is a recipe for disaster. We already see this in part in the Netherlands again where 1 in 5 psychiatric euthanasia’s were not previously hospitalised and a significant minority did not receive psychotherapy. With the NHS being under-resourced as it is currently, I would imagine this ratio could potentially be even higher.
The slippery slope is far from a fallacy. Indeed, I fear that euthanasia, if it is legalised, will initially be legalised based off the desire to allow those in the most incurable suffering to end their lives, but then will gradually become more and more liberalised beyond the original intention of that legalisation. This is not without precedent. With euthanasia this is particularly dangerous because it will potentially mean an industrial scale slaughter of the most vulnerable in our society. We must recognise that whether we are talking about the practical, philosophical, or the moral implications of legalising euthanasia; there are problems at every turn. As such, we must exercise the greatest conservative principle, that being caution, when pondering whether or not we should legalise euthanasia; because once it’s done, it’s done; there’s no going back.
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