Right to live, right to die

In a world that is get­ting con­fused more than it ever was in mod­ern his­tory, a chaotic sit­u­a­tion is emerg­ing as to what is right and what is wrong, and what is true and what is fake. It is cur­rently mir­rored in the lives of prac­ti­cally ev­ery na­tion on ear

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

Here, the IVF/em­bryo is­sue has been twisted in so many ways it is dif­fi­cult to say who said what last. There have been so many in­con­sis­tent stand­points on the sub­ject, even in Par­lia­ment where you had the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion first vot­ing for and then in­ex­pli­ca­bly chang­ing gears into re­verse and vot­ing against it. When it gets to such silly sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing last Mon­day’s vi­cious clown­ing in­side the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives while Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary Ju­lia Far­ru­gia-Portelli was speak­ing on the is­sue, you know the red light is on and things need to be sorted out as quickly and serenely as pos­si­ble.

Eth­i­cal and sci­en­tific con­fronta­tion is no new sen­sa­tion. It has been go­ing on since sci­en­tists, philoso­phers and in­no­va­tors were burned at the stake lest they con­tam­i­nated peo­ple’s minds! In 21st cen­tury terms, how­ever, what is the man in the street to make of all this con­fu­sion? There were times when he had no choice but bow his head and ac­cept du­bi­ous re­li­gious dogma. Af­ter the French Revo­lu­tion and, cen­turies later, the ad­vent of the Six­ties with their lib­er­ties and newly won rights, a new aware­ness emerged that has since been digi­tised and moulded in the elec­tronic caul­dron.

When you would have thought that things have be­come clearer, they have ac­tu­ally been shoved, scram­bled and jux­ta­posed in such a way as to pro­voke more doubts, more so­cial dis­ar­ray and a bel­liger­ent at­mos­phere that is hardly ideal for se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion.

When it is con­firmed that the new amend­ments to the IVF law in con­nec­tion with em­bryos can only lead to more pro­cre­ation, you get church­men – those very same holy sources that had once ob­jected to con­tra­cep­tives on the ba­sis of their be­ing bar­ri­ers to pro­cre­ation – in­sist­ing, some of them pretty the­atri­cally, that hu­man lives are be­ing threat­ened. They have a right to live, one of them screamed like a tribal witch­doc­tor at a gather­ing of lit­tle chil­dren be­wil­dered by the whole topic when they would rather have been run­ning af­ter a soc­cer ball, but the proven sci­en­tific truth is they are ac­tu­ally be­ing used to help cre­ate new Mal­tese and Goz­i­tan fam­i­lies.

There can be only one truth. Mul­ti­ple in­ter­pre­ta­tions and mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of pro­gres­sive laws only help sow more per­plex­ity, plant more doubts in peo­ple’s minds, and cre­ate a feel­ing of mu­tual dis­trust, when a se­ri­ous process such as this re­quires the con­fi­dence of all those in­volved in the well­be­ing of the Mal­tese na­tion.

Strangely, all this re­minds me of that old, pop­u­lar con­science teaser which, amus­ingly for some, had peo­ple be­ing asked: if you sadly have some­one sud­denly and se­ri­ously ill and in dan­ger of dy­ing, who do you call first – the am­bu­lance ser­vice? The doc­tor? The priest? And should all three ap­pear on your thresh­old at pre­cisely the same time, do you ex­pect them to el­bow-fight their way in, or let them go in to­gether?

It may all sound funny, but it is not, and nei­ther is it in­tended to be. A per­son’s needs at that pre­car­i­ous mo­ment vary, so all three have a role to play as per the af­flicted per­son’s known or un­known wishes or his fam­ily’s. Noth­ing can be fairer than that. Your timely ac­tion can ei­ther save him/her from death or, os­ten­si­bly, from eter­nal hell. The choice is yours. Yes, that pre­cious, oft-abused word.

A dig­ni­fied end

From the right to live we move swiftly to the right to die. Again, here we get the moral­ists in their var­i­ous forms of dis­guise and the sci­en­tists, at least those of them who are not pup­pets in con­ser­va­tive hands, fight­ing it out between them, with the real vic­tim – the per­son who sim­ply can­not face more suf­fer­ing and hu­mil­i­a­tion – watch­ing on help­lessly.

That same world that lav­ishly ap­plies cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment and con­sents to abor­tion does not al­low a per­son to die a peace­ful and dig­ni­fied death. The State can kill you, but you can­not de­cide when to die.

The ex­am­ples abound and two very re­cent cases suf­fice. A ter­mi­nally-ill re­tired lec­turer in have come to agree it should be the un­for­tu­nate in­di­vid­ual.

Strange and stranger still

Was it not strange to watch the Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu giv­ing such a fancy pre­sen­ta­tion of claims and al­le­ga­tions about Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme when he rep­re­sents a coun­try that re­fuses to even say whether it has nu­clear weapons or not? And is it not stranger still when seen in the light of what the world knows when one of Is­rael’s own cit­i­zens, Mordechai Va­nunu, tried to tell the truth about them, only to be roughly and cru­elly thrown into jail?

In 1986, the for­mer nu­clear tech­ni­cian and peace ac­tivist had re­vealed de­tails of Is­rael’s nu­clear weapons pro­gramme to the British me­dia. He was sub­se­quently lured to Italy by the Mos­sad, drugged and ab­ducted from un­der the big­gest of Etr­uscan noses. Va­nunu spent no less than 18 years in prison, 11 of them in soli­tary con­fine­ment, suf­fer­ing cruel and bar­baric treat­ment.

How­ever, while pre­sent­ing the view­ing me­dia with video and big-screen “tes­ta­ment” to his al­le­ga­tions, much to the de­light of his friend Don­ald Trump as he con­tem­plates leav­ing the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord with Iran, other sig­na­to­ries were hardly im­pressed. They in­sisted that the Iran deal “re­mains a pin­na­cle of in­ter­na­tional peace and sta­bil­ity” and it is up to the IAEA, the world’s nu­clear au­thor­ity, to as­sess whether Tehran has vi­o­lated it. In Europe, some even in­sisted Ne­tanyahu’s claims may ac­tu­ally be an ar­gu­ment in favour of the 2015 nu­clear deal that Trump seems so un­able to di­gest.

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