Is it ethical to euthanise my grandmother?

Our ethical columnist on how we should stop people from living so long.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

My dear old grandmother has reached 80, and she says she is now ready to pass on to the Other Side. She has asked me to help in this endeavour, either by administering a deadly injection or using her pillow to smother her. Ethan, is this ethical?

Jemima Albemarle

Dear Jemima,

The short answer to your question is: yes, it is ethical to euthanise your gran if that is what she wants. The long answer is: we eco-ethicists need to have a serious talk about rolling out euthanasia programmes across society in order to address the most pressing problem facing humanity today: overpopulation.

There’s no doubt that human overpopulation is a curse on Mother Earth. More humans mean more cities, more factories, more cars, more rape, more global warming and more droughts/floods. As those brave eco-warriors Arne Naess and George Sessions pointed out more than 20 years ago, ‘a substantial reduction in human population is needed for the flourishing of non-human life’. That’s right: if the plants are to survive – and remember that they, unlike us, are a natural growth on the face of the Earth – then many, many humans will have to go.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. (I hate that saying! Bushes have rights, too, and should never be beaten.) One of the main causes of overpopulation is the fact that people are living longer. PEOPLE LIKE YOUR GRANDMOTHER. Those ‘advances’ in medical research (which have been built on the blood and guts of millions of innocent animals) and ‘advances’ in material wealth (the product of the further raping and pillaging of the Earth by mankind) mean that people live far beyond our natural dying age. What possible justification can there be for someone to live to 80 years of age! What arrogance it takes to warp nature and extend your lifespan as you see fit!

Yet while everyone recognises that the ageing population is a ‘timebomb’, a ‘burden’, a ‘crisis in the making’, they refuse to take the necessary action to stop it. We need state-arranged euthanasia NOW.

I’m a big fan of the Church of Euthanasia (CofE) in America, the deep-green group that uses black humour to warn the world about overpopulation. Its rallying cry – ‘Save the planet, kill yourself’ – is perhaps the most beautifully selfless slogan in contemporary politics. Its advice page on ‘How To Kill Yourself’ was a must-read for those truly brave eco-warriors who chose to kill themselves rather than continue killing the planet. After telling readers how to use a tank of helium to end their life/pollution of the planet, the page warned: ‘Make sure you will not be disturbed for at least 30 minutes…. If you are discovered and revived, you may have permanent brain damage.’ What kind advice! Unfortunately, the page was removed by censors in 2003 after a woman in Missouri followed its advice and died. This is the kind of world we live in, Jemima, where climate change deniers are free to spout LIES on Channel 4 but deep greens are not free to offer advice on eco-suicide on the web.

However, the CofE is wrong to focus on encouraging individuals to kill themselves. We need to incentivise euthanasia across society. The old and the infirm are raping the planet for the young and the unborn. They use up far more resources than citizens under 60: they have to be ferried round in cars; they require home helpers and cleaners who also drive around in cars; they use gallons of cleaning chemicals to keep their feeble immune systems away from nature’s own little cleaners (bacteria); they consume endless quantities of drugs for their chronic conditions, created through the torture of innumerable creatures. And they simply DO NOT CARE about the environment. When I complained to an elderly gent about the fact that he got on a bus to travel just two stop – when he could have walked with the aid of his stick – he said: ‘Bugger off you smelly hippy.’ What gutter language they use.

Sadly, a compulsory euthanasia programme along the lines of the far-sighted film Logan’s Run may not be acceptable at present. I would propose that euthanasia should become a voluntary option after the age of 60, and semi-voluntary after 70. I propose tying euthanasia programmes to family healthcare in general. For example, a family’s access to dental care and hospital treatment could be determined by whether or not their elderly family members have opted for the National Exit Strategy. Those families whose older members have ‘exited’ would receive free healthcare; those families whose older members remain would either have restricted access to healthcare or would have to pay for it. Of course this programme could give rise to a situation where families hide their older members and pretend they have ‘exited’! We will need a Euthanasia Taskforce to ensure that secret communities of anti-green elderlies do not spring up.

One more thorny issue: disabled people. Jemima, they too should have the option to exit. Readers of my column will know that I believe we can only measure mankind by his carbon footprint. And I’m sorry to say that disabled people – because they use electric wheelchairs, electric stairlifts, specially-built cars, etc – emit more carbon than able-bodied people. I’ve calculated that where an average man releases around nine tonnes of carbon a year, a disabled man releases a whopping 16 tonnes a year. This is unsustainable. And again, the rise of the number of mobile disabled people shows how arrogant we are. Paraplegia could be looked upon as nature’s way of encouraging a state of un-movement in our human-made hypermobile world, a natural way of stilling the speedy and destructive human. But what do we do? Via electric wheelchairs we make paraplegics part of the mobile society, too. Is it time to follow my great hero Peter Singer’s advice and give people the right to euthanise disabled babies at birth?

A final point: we must carefully consider how to dispose of euthanised bodies, including your gran’s, Jemima. As I’ve argued before, both burial and cremation are wicked afflictions on the environment. Perhaps the Euthanasia Taskforce could also consider ways to use the elderly and disabled people’s remains to fertilise the earth or feed animal populations. Finally we will go back to being part of nature, instead of thinking ourselves above it.

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

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Topics Politics


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