The culture of populations in advanced countries is steadily proceeding in three stages towards euthanasia, the last stage being widely practised — if not universally — when we were hunter-gatherers. As observed by anthropologists, the last stage — usually thoughtfully or kindly — inevitably taking place in a tribe when it could no longer afford continuing support of one of its old folk, either economically or emotionally.
In reverse, the third stage took place even with the consent of the candidate when he or she knew that, otherwise, there would be insufficient food to feed the latest baby. If present-day knowledge of medical science proceeds as now and food is increasingly appropriated by the higher social levels then the middle and lower levels will begin practising full-scale euthanasia. If indeed it has not already started quietly.
The preceding stage would have taken place in advanced society without the consent of the candidate, but whose personality had long since departed and totally unable to fend for himself or herself. A great deal of this already goes on quietly in hospices and hospitals. It was indeed formalised as the Liverpool Care Pathway. Although premature publicity has caused this to be withdrawn, it will return more widely in another form before too long.
The first stage — where we are now — is when the candidate, not others, initiates the process. Some find willing helpers among the family or the local doctor and they set about it quietly, though some are more ostentatious by travelling to the Dignitas organisation Switzerland.
It is unfortunate that the Assisted Dying Act was thrown out of Parliament some weeks ago when it was known beforehand that there was a good majority of MPs in favour of it — as there is also in the electorate. But its time will come in a few years’ — or even months’ — and the national culture will start changing quite rapidly. Meanwhile, stages two and three will also be proceeding. The prosperity of the last 80 years or so is now coming to an end, and it is the economics of the situation — the survivability of the population — that will determine the outcome.