Baroness Warnock: Dementia sufferers may have a ‘duty to die’

by Martin Beckford, The Telegraph, 18 September 2008

Nine years ago Mr Beckford reported on the musings of Baroness Warnock, Britain’s ‘leading moral philosopher’ and ‘veteran Government adviser’.

Lady Warnock said: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.

“I’m absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there’s a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they’re a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.

“Actually I’ve just written an article called ‘A Duty to Die?’ for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself.”

She went on: “If you’ve an advance directive, appointing someone else to act on your behalf, if you become incapacitated, then I think there is a hope that your advocate may say that you would not wish to live in this condition so please try to help her die.

I think that’s the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you’d be licensing people to put others down.

More recently, veteran Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee endorsed the sentiment:

Another bad argument is that the frail will be intimidated into hastening the end of their lives so as not to be a burden on their children. Well, why not?

Click here to read the full Telegraph article.