There's a real and very natural tendency when societies and groups within societies coalesce on one side or the other of a current debate to try to 'pidgeon-hole' the opposition. It can be simply a way of trying to come to 'know thine enemy'or, at worst, it can be about creating a slur upon the 'otherside' for the sake of justifying one's own position.
Opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide is no different. 'Religious fundamentalists', 'God-botherers', 'right-to-lifers', 'arch-conservatives', the list of pejoratives is extensive as it is colourful. The raison d'etre should be obvious: if opposition only comes from this small cohort, of perhaps even only a small number within this small cohort, then their concerns are easily dismissed. 'They don't represent everybody and, well, we all know that God bothering conservatives are an antiquarian anomaly in our modern world. We mustn't be held back by the rabid few.'
However, of all the social issues of the last half-century, euthanasia and assisted suicide, I would argue is the issue least identifiable in such terms. Worldwide, coalitions of people 'in-the-front-line' of opposition include many who identify as political progressives or athiests, agnostics etc., many with opposing political affilliations and those with none.
Case in point the recently released 'Draft Policy Statement' on assisted suicide from the newly formed 'Left Unity' political party in the United Kingdom. Couched using terms such as 'neoliberalism', 'social Darwinism', the inherent 'inequality' of a 'capitalist market economy', those that espouse to the false thinking that opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide is the preserve of the 'religious right' will find what 'Left Unity' have to say confronting.
Defining their statement in classical social justice terms 'Left Unity' side in solidarity with 'the vulnerable': "There are many sections of British society who have suffered as a direct consequence of the neoliberal agenda dressed up as 'austerity measures', however, particular attention needs to be paid to the vulnerable position of people with life-shortening impairments, chronic ill-health, those with significant impairments and older people find themselves in."
Rehearsing both sides of the debate, 'Left Unity' observes that:
"The current debate around assisted dying/suicide collapses together the 'quality of life' expected or accepted of a 'healthy' human being and the state of being of people who are ill, with terminal illness or significantly impaired. It is the use of societal comparators that makes the debate oppressive and, many would argue, unsafe to legislate. Where a society maintains a binary approach - prolong life or end suffering - there's historical evidence to suggest that this ultimately results in coercive practices when subjectively applied to 'groups of people' across the board."
Following an exhaustive look at the current situation in Britain:
"Left Unity not only believes that in the current social context in which this debate is taking place, the case to change our current law has not been made, we also believe permitting assisted dying/suicide without the guaranteed ability of ensuring choice and control by the individual at all times could put vulnerable people at risk of harm."
These are but a few examples of what is an excellent exploration of the issues in what 'Left Unity' acknowledges is a complex debate. I encourage readers to follow the link and take the time to read the entire statement.
Not only is this fine work proof that opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide crosses the 'traditional divides', it also gives us an insight into why it is that those who oppose such legislation are a very diverse group. It will hopefully help those who think supporting euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is a given on the progressive side of politics to think again and to stand, as 'Left Unity' does, in solidarity with those at risk.
You can read the full statement HERE.