Sexy new name for Euthanasia: “Assisted dying”

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If and when you finally snap and murder that annoying neighbour of yours who won’t stop playing house music into the early hours of the morning, you have a new defence at the ready when you go before the judge:

“I didn’t murder him, m’lud, I just assisted him to die”

Anyway, that’s what euthanasia is now: Assisted dying. It sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it? And like clockwork, our friends in the media will be repeating it ad nauseum, as David Quinn noted yesterday:

It’s not just drivetime, either. Soon you’ll be hearing the phrase over and over again, on every broadcast. But it’s a nonsense.

“Dying”, is, of course, a mainly natural, passive process. We do not actually require assistance to die – it’s about the one thing that we’re certain to accomplish, at some point, all by ourselves.

When you “assist” someone to die, you’re effectively helping to kill them. “Friendly killing” is as apt a description of the process as assisted dying, but we’re not going to hear it described that way, because it simply doesn’t sound as nice.

The whole point of this, of course, is for the media, which is always largely unanimously behind the liberal cause of the moment, to put its thumb on the scale and soften up public opinion in support of the bill that is coming before the Dáil.

It might sound pedantic to worry about language, but it’s absolutely not. Words mean things. In recent years we’ve seen a concerted effort to change the meanings of words – witness the treatment meted out to JK Rowling, for example, for attempting to defend the definition of the word “woman”.

“Dying” is an entirely passive process. When we hear on the radio that someone has “died”, our brains have been trained to tell us that the person met a natural end – either from illness, or from old age.

When someone’s death is at the hands of another person, either as the result of an accident or foul play, we are told that they were “killed”. Or sometimes if it was un-natural and nobody else was involved, we might clarify the nature of what happened – “died in an accident”, or “died by suicide”.

In any other circumstance, though, where one person’s actions lead to the death of another, we use words like “killed”.

Euthanasia is, of course, killing. Up to now, language has recognised that. In some countries, for example, it is called “mercy killing”.

The dictionary defines euthanasia as the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma.

When the media refer to “assisted dying”, they’re engaged, quite consciously, in a PR exercise for one side of the euthanasia debate.

You might support the proposed legislation, you might oppose it. But whichever view you take, it’s entirely sickening to watch the Irish media, yet again, adopt the language of one group of campaigners, to try to change the meaning of a word.

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