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Euthanasia and abortion: age discrimination at both ends of life?

Euthanasia and abortion: age discrimination at both ends of life?

Dr Mike Fitzpatrick sympathises with the effects of the Covid pandemic lockdown on the elderly, but warns against older people disregarding the restrictions, not least because robustly proclaiming that the interests of young people should not be sacrificed to those who have lived much longer ‘gives succour to those who are inclined to the view that the lives of the elderly are less worthy than those of the younger generation’; he maintains that ‘[d]evaluing people by their age is wrong’ (Doctor’s Diary, Telegraph, November 16, 2020).

 

He is, of course, right in that, and he has previously expressed his opposition to assisted suicide (‘Vote on assisted suicide is a relief’, The Surgery, Telegraph, March 2, 2020); however, he has also said that the abortion pill should be sold over the counter, just like the ‘morning-after’ pill (‘Doctor’s Diary: “No going back”’, Telegraph, June 8, 2020).

 

However, if women have the ‘right to choose’ death for their unborn child, an even stronger case could be mounted – and indeed, is being mounted - for the right to kill themselves; and if they need help to do so, ‘right to die’ advocates also argue that they should have that help, since in the interests of free choice we should not ‘discriminate’ against those who cannot kill themselves.

 

But if, in opposition to such arguments, we believe that allowing the old to be killed amounts to age discrimination - even if they are thought to be ‘only’ days, weeks, or months from death - why is it not age discrimination to allow a child to be killed because they are ‘only’ a few days, a few weeks, or a few months from the beginning of life? Abortion is simply age discrimination at the other end of life. Devaluing people on the basis of their age is indeed wrong; the very fact of being human should provide protection from killing - making it a ‘choice’ does not make it right.