Tuesday 18 August 2015

Dolce and Gabbana, ‘Synthetic’ People & The Assisted Dying Bill

Dolce of Dolce and Gabbana spoke in March of children produced by I.V.F. as children of chemistry and as synthetic babies, asking how we tell a child who their mother is in a world of “rented wombs” and “catalogue sperm”? (I suspect however, that he was referring to the process as synthetic and not the people the IVF procedures generate). Dolce is now, according to Lifesite news, saying “I think everybody chooses for themselves...Science has been put on the table to help people.” I am happy that he is not referring to persons generated by IVF as synthetic as this is clearly not true and offends against their human dignity, but without meaning to do so he has brought to our attention something we need to take on board: misuse of medical science.

I remember when first appointed as a hospital chaplain some twenty-plus years ago that the principal chaplain leading our course stated that many a time he had to reassure Christian nurses that some of the procedures in which they assisted (such as contraception and use of narcotics in end of life care) were blessings from God; that God had given us the knowledge to do these things and that we should therefore not be afraid to engage with them.  He was not happy when I asked if that meant that what happened in Auschwitz and at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally good if God had given us the knowledge to engage in mass destruction. The week was very tense after that, since the majority of new chaplains on the course were, like the principal chaplain, either Anglican or some other form of Protestant Christian, and no Protestant denomination has a strong history of moral theology as part of their faith system. I am not surprised, therefore, that Protestant ‘faith leaders’ have come out in support of the Assisted Dying Bill currently awaiting debate in Parliament.

While the babies and people brought into being by I.V.F. are not ‘synthetic’ people but real people with a human soul, the process by which they came into being is indeed unnatural; it removes the procreation of life from the loving, natural act in which it is meant to arise, and from the natural situation in which it should be fostered: the love of mother and father jointly committed to their offspring and one another. While I can see why people generated by I.V.F. procedures are rightly offended by being referred to as synthetic, there is an issue here in regard to transgender surgery, for while such plastic surgery does not make ‘plastic people’, it does produce only a ‘plastic sex’. God forbid, but should a transsexual be caught in a fire and identifiable only by their DNA, they would be identified as their conceived sex, not their plastic-surgery sex. At the biological level they remain unchanged; their sex remains as determined at their conception, and plastic surgery has done nothing to change this reality. This may be why there is, according to LIfesite news, a higher suicide rate among post surgery Transexuals that in the general population. Transgender surgery is actually a lie told to the person and to society about the sexual identity of the person. That does not mean that we can treat transsexuals as any less a person than anyone else, but it does mean we cannot opt into the lie and call Daniel ‘Daniela’. 

We seem to have a society that thinks ‘because we can do A, B and C, we should’. They do not ask the Christian question, which is ‘but should we?’ This is an area where the Assisted Dying Bill is not just questionable but morally wrong: yes we have the technology to kill quietly and efficiently, but should we? If we value human life and are seeking to eradicate problems from people’s lives, the answer to the question is ‘no’ because Assisted Dying –like Contraception and Abortion- does not eradicate problems but persons. We are not expressing our humanity if we eradicate one another rather than care for one another. Rather than push assisted dying we need to advance assisted living. It would be better to channel funds into finding ways which eradicate pain and anxiety while enhancing the life experience of the terminally ill rather than seek ways to kill them quietly, and far better to channel funds into social services for larger or impoverished families rather than eradicate children by contraception and abortion. Eradication of persons is the Culture of Death: Nazism in a white coat. What we need is a Culture of Life; one that seeks to eliminate problems, not people; one that assists people to live a satisfying life rather than end a distressing one; a Culture that empathically walks with folk in their journey towards death rather than one which precipitates that death. Let us train Doctors and Nurses, not Executioners; let us care for the sick and disabled, not kill them; let us build family life, not eliminate it.

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