Ken Connor

A waste. A burden. That is how influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock views people suffering from dementia. Lady Warnock, a prominent adviser to the British government, told the Church of Scotland's Life and Work magazine that people suffering from dementia should be allowed to kill themselves rather than continue to burden their families and Britain's National Health Service. Sadly, Warnock's comments are all too consistent with our modern utilitarian view of life.

Lady Warnock argues that people suffering from dementia are "wasting" their families' lives and the nation's resources. She believes that merely having dementia makes one's life not worth living. She maintains that people should be allowed to give advance notice to a third party that they wish to be killed when they reach a set point of mental deterioration. And she wants to expand this "advance directive" to include just about any situation where a person believes their life is no longer worth living. Her ultimate goal is to license people to "put others down." "Put them down"—like a sick dog. At least she's frank.

Warnock's vision is particularly disturbing because she has served as a prominent moral adviser to the British government on matters of life and bioethics, having chaired the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology in the 1980s. Conservative Member of Parliament Nadine Dorries criticized Lady Warnock's comments, stating, "Because of her previous experiences and well-known standing on contentious moral issues, Baroness Warnock automatically gives moral authority to what are entirely immoral view points."

At the heart of Lady Warnock's comments (and, indeed, the entire euthanasia movement) is an atomistic, subjective, utilitarian view of life. Once one becomes dissatisfied with the quality of their life or determines that they have outlived their usefulness, the door is open for them to end their life. They are the sole arbiters of whether their life is worth living. And if they are unable to "do the deed" themselves, they should be free to select a proxy to do it for them.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.