Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dignitas: A death camp for air-conditioned lives

Oh, didn't I tell you? I won't be updating again until I feel there has been a satisfactory response to this posting. No one tells Madame Arcati what to write about. So, go read some boring newspaper atheist blog, penned by an editor-approved dollop, if you want your prejudices echoed.

One of the great priests of modern voguish atheism is Arthur Schopenhauer, the so-called "philosopher of pessimism" who viewed life as meaningless and the universe as godless. When, say, Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens lecture us that religions (and not money, greed, nationalism, etc) cause wars, they are parroting Schopenhauer, and they in turn are parroted by the tots who write for a whole range of serious publications, literary, intellectual, whatever.

One organisation that heartily endorses Schopenhauer's worldview is Dignitas, the assisted suicide death camp based in Switzerland. While I am not religious myself (in the sense I do not belong to any faith) I am struck by how the humanist/atheist agenda invariably veers towards the joy of death and how to make it part of one's orderly schedule.

The problem identified by Dignitas is the human will to live: if only people could be made to feel that there's no earthly reason why they should feel obliged to stay alive when times are hard, they could make it better - by killing themselves. Religious faith just encourages people to stay stubbornly alive against adversity, distressing loved ones in the process and clogging up hospitals. Whether in fact religion is relevant to this debate is neither here nor there: Dignitas has decreed that it is. Dignitas isn't just a death camp. It's also a proponent of the atheist cause.

Back in 2006, Ludwig A Minelli of Dignitas gave a talk at the Liberal Democratic Party congress in Brighton. He painted a pretty picture of a future of assisted suicides which would... "save a lot of money in the public health system." He went on: "We have to avoid the heavy consequences of century-long indoctrination with religious dogmas." He then quoted Schopenhauer favourably: "The power of religious dogma, when inculcated early, is such as to stifle conscience, compassion, and finally every feeling of humanity." The English are jeered at for "their stupid ecclesiastical superstition."

The point to all this is to be aware of how robustly and proactively an organisation like Dignitas advances its cause. It's not just offering a death service. It is out there drumming up business. It is doing so by ventilating a hostile, baseless view of faith - that it is at the root of all evil. Faith stifles compassion or conscience? You have only to open a history book at random to see what else might stifle our humanity.


Anonymous said...

Gosh this is a surprise piece. Tatler then Digitas. You have articulated my own thoughts on this organisation even if I have reservations over the use of "death camp".

Vincent said...

Drumming up business and hogging the limelight, yes. Of all would-be suicides, only a small number require to be assisted, with medical conditions so serious that they are unable to perform the deed themselves. But Dignitas seems to be offering a deluxe ritual that takes away guilt, mess and stigma.

Atheists certainly like to talk up the power of religious dogma, as if unaware that people make their own choices, picking and choosing only the religious dogmas that suit their purposes (e.g. homosexuality is forbidden by the Bible: so are lots of other things but they ignore those bits).

Anonymous said...

The nurses decision to become neutral on assisted suicide is another example of the growing influence of atheists. In time what Dignitas calls a "human right to die with dignity" will become an expectation, both in the patient and in doctors, nurses and patient relatives. The people who say this can never happen are merely trying to win a point in the argument. They have no idea what the future holds.

God of the Universe said...

Christ-I'll have to think long and hard about this post of MA's.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a stand off with MA. I wonder who'll win.

Anonymous said...

What a dreadful and arrogant person you are. I hope no one else responds to this awful posting. If people want to die no one should stand in their way, especially if they have a terminal illness. Certainly I think Arcati should be allowed to die.

Anonymous said...

I have created a Madame Arcati voodoo doll and ams ticking pins in it. Can you feel the pain?

Madame Arcati said...


Anonymous said...

I think MA is looking for reasons to close "her" blog. I have suspected as much in the past few weeks.

Madame Arcati said...


Anonymous said...

Why won't you speak up? What is so frightening about reaching out and pouring out your fears or speaking truthfully of your heartbreak? Why get all "philosophical" and still stay impersonal? Who cares about what decision others make for themselves? Your journey is YOURS ONLY and your have to answer all-by-yourself to that Higher Being if you truly believe there is one. You have the nerve to say you're spiritual and still demand answers without going out looking for them.

What you and others keep labelling as "Religion" does NOT teach you to stay "stubbornly alive". FAITH tells you too TRUST in that Supreme Intelligence that there is a purpose even for your agony and what makes it painful is not the illness (or decay of the physical part of you, if you may) itself, but your EGO. That is the reason why you use the term "dying with dignity" because you believe you are not LIVING with dignity and you resist to trust in the love AND compassion of others (To be arrogant to the very end). What do you think The Christ meant by being like lambs? Modesty is the bridge to the road to freedom.

Why is it so important to keep up appearances, stay cool and not make a fool of yourself? What is the worse that could happen? Do people's opinion of you matter even after death? Why ask for a justification to make the decision to end it all "in your own terms" or a good reason not to do it? There IS A PLAN! THERE IS AN ORDER TO THE UNIVERSE. Surrender and you'll be set free! Open your eyes and ears and you'll learn it.

I'm not going to put in another essay. I have lots to tell you, but right now I'm on a quest. You know where to find me.

Mary Horwitz said...

What she want us to say?

Madame Arcati said...

Dear Mary, would you like to be waterboarded? I can arrange it.

Anonymous said...

The lack of dignity in life is all around us: those in acute poverty and the corrupt just two categories. Should we assist their suicide?

Anonymous said...

Philosophy aside, you should take a closer look at some of the assisted suicide cases. Not all patients who take their lives have terminal conditions, the BBC conductor being a recent example. People with kidney problems have also elected to end their lives even though dialysis and transplants would have kept them going "with dignity" and enabled them to live near normal lives.

The fact that people feel wretched about chronic health conditions should not be a reason for suicide: they need support and counselling, not a one-way ticket to the promised oblivion.

Anonymous said...

Why not use the word for the Dignitas market - cowards!

Ross Eldridge said...

I'm with MA on this one.

I'm assuming the corner Dignitas franchise requires papers from a doctor before it hands over any pills. Doctors can be chosen for their views ... They might be bought, eh?

I wonder if a "mentally ill" person could be a candidate for a Dignitas suicide ... Say someone like Virginia Woolf with manic depressive illness. The manic depressive, in his or her clearer moment might sensibly state that the highs and lows of his life are a misery that he wants to end. For him, this is as real as a cancer.

In Aldous Huxley's "Island" the character Lakshmi is dying of cancer. However, she is experiencing the fading and dying, and the pain.

I believe DH Lawrence helped his mother along by giving her an extra dose of morphine when she was dying. I don't know if she requested it.

My own mother, who died quite young of cancer, experienced her dying. She never asked me for assistance, and I don't think I could have given it.

Children, all of us, should learn about death and dying ... as part of living. Then there might be no call for Dignitas. There may be added benefits in the conception and abortion areas and, dare I say it, the military. Understanding the meaning of life.

Anonymous said...

Now, don't get petulant Madame - it doesn't suit you.

Anonymous said...

Echoing Madame's title, Vincent says "Dignitas seems to be offering a deluxe ritual that takes away guilt, mess and stigma." Quite so. Is there a problem with that? I should very much like my own death to be completely free of guilt, mess and stigma.

Madame's point, that Dignitas's promotional efforts seem to err on the militant side of atheist rhetoric, is about taste. Certainly, that kind of marketing isn't going to appeal to everyone, and personally I agree that it strays too far into the realm of the tasteless.

This argument should not be about economics or religion. The first is obvious: what price life?

The second is more complex. It does seem true to me that the only truly meaningful argument against euthanasia (or indeed suicide) is the religious one. But, since religion is a personal belief, and precise religious beliefs vary enormously across the population, the opinions of some religious people on this subject seem a flimsy basis from which to deny everyone the right to decide they've had enough and they're outta here.

For Dignitas to be dignified, it need only consistently state the point that there is no rational reason why adults of sound mind should not be allowed to end their own lives at a time and by a method of their choosing.

veritas said...

well I think people who choose suicide are fabulously brave and I welcome Dignitas..but will I be able afford the fare to Switzerland when needed ? That is the question.

Afterall I'd soon be back and the only thing that prevents me taking the final yodel in the Alps is I just haven't quite worked out what I may come back as.I mean I don't want to be a cat or Scot or a Fleet Street hack or something similarly horrendous. Certainly not the next time around.

One problem I have with Dignitas is that on viewing the photographs of their premises it looked decidedly like 3 star accomodation- a bit like a backpackers hostel in Amsterdam and there wasn't even a telly or a bar fridge!.

Surely they could re-produce a room like one at The Ritz or Dorchestor even if it's only for a minute!.

(fuck-Madame is an odd mood these days..what happened in Croatia?)

canon alberic said...

Madame: What do you expect? Such a world we live in...

The political editor of The New Statesman is ideologically aligned with a misogynistic medievalist cult. The Telegraph supports the labour Party. Guardian readers are looking forward to voting Tory. The Evening Standard is money laundering for the KGB. Tatler is more "Have A Break" than "Shall we send for tea?" and Joanna Lumley has become the goddess of a remote tribe of warriors.

Is it any wonder that professional atheists and moral imbeciles are advocating package tour euthanasia for inconvenient elderly relatives?

Im practicing with a hand-gun they wont take me alone.

Anonymous said...

"I won't be updating again until I feel there has been a satisfactory response to this posting."

Well, just tel me what you mean by "a satisfactory response" and I'll see what I can do. But honestly I have to confess I'm not sure if I want or need you to update...

Madame Arcati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...

To the person immediately above - then please let me not detain you. Do not rush back in a hurry. Like the JanWinter2 mob, some people are intent on visiting this site even when they need not. It's quite perverse and should not be encouraged.

Now, to Veritas: I have not been to Croatia yet: that's next week. If you're on your way to Cuckooland visit Split first and catch my Ghetto night. I don't think suicides are fabulously brave in the least: usually their death wish in in response to a perceived more horrible alternative fate.

To Canon Alberic: I didn't know the NS's ed is allied to some mediaevalist cult - can you tell us more? Jason Cowley, who does everything by the approved manuals, is in danger of sounding interesting.

To the anon (can't you lot at least invent a name?) who thinks the only objections to suicide can be religious - oh no. The secular state needs no god to be moral: it has absorbed a code of ethics from many sources in determining what is right and proper. It does not hesitate to tell us what's in the common good. Is it in the common good that people with serious illnesses - including depression - should be given a service to kill themselves? What does this tell us about our attitude to life? So soon does an option become an expectation.

A person determined to commit suicide will attempt it in any case - are we to assume that such a person is of sound mind? Or is it just expedient to think so? The economic argument for assisted suicide is very tempting: too tempting.

It is of course invevitable that once you remove religious or moral barriers to suicide, then the next step is a form of heartless laissez faire: You wanna die? Fuck off then. A society that treats its vulnerable like that is heading for big trouble in heaps of other ways.

Finally for now, thank you for your responses. They have been quite satisfactory. More are welcome.

Anonymous said...

Ironically in raising this subject you're now carrying a Google ad for Dignity in Dying. Can't win can you MA?

Anonymous said...

"For Dignitas to be dignified, it need only consistently state the point that there is no rational reason why adults of sound mind should not be allowed to end their own lives at a time and by a method of their choosing".

Of sound mind, eh? Lovely fluffy talk. Who determines what exactly is to be "of sound mind" is? Who determines the right time or age?

I had a 19 year old friend shoot herself in the face to end an unbearable existence (This is Raquel again, MA darling). She was beautiful, healthy, fit (among other things she was a ballerina), smart (one of the highest scores in my class when we were at art school), great personality and the only way you could get a hint that she had an inner torment was if you were paying enough attention to little inexplicable remarks she would make now and then or little outbursts over seemingly unimportant things. Once we were just sitting on a bench, chatting and waiting for the next class. The conversation lead us to her talking about her amazing father, her incomparable mother, her older sister who had no match and her older brother who was the coolest guy she new (she wasn't being sarcastic, she meant it all - she adored her family); she paused for a moment and with a bit of ... embarrassment and an air of sadness said: "the only failure in the family is me". Her family was not particularly exceptional - I knew them; and this girl, actually, was above average. Loud bells rang in my head; I asked her as calmly and comforting as I could (I think I still sounded a bit baffled and in disbelief of what I had just heard her say), trying to sound as convincing as I could: how can you say such a thing, Raquel?, numbering all the qualities I mention here and, I think, many more. She just shrunk her shoulders and giggled sadly. I went to two counsellors in school trying to get someone trained to help her; to call her and ask her "how she was doing" - the response from both of them was that they could not just call her with no excuse (I asked them to make one up, like to pretend they surveyed students to assess their progress and satisfaction with the system; whatever!) they each stated she had to be the one to approach them.

Now tell me how old and physically ill do we have to be for it to be acceptable to decide for ourselves we can't go on any longer. Cite a minimum age, level of pain (physical or emotional), disability, lack of income and lack of functional interaction with closest relative. Then, maybe we can pass a bill and get this ball rolling.

Sorry, I couldn't help my self (another essay!) D'you luv me anyways, MA darling?

Anonymous said...

Oh! I've reached to your comment, MA darling. Ok, here it goes...
ox (Is that good enough?)

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you ox, this is a very good example of what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Christian, why would an atheist worry about the morality of assisted deaths once it's decided life has no spiritual value? Surely the point about atheism is that life is meaningless, we are pointless, the universe is indifferent and we're all here by chance. Atheism offers a perfect basis for treating people as units whose value is judged by usefulness to the state. Once the unit conks out, it may be permitted to expire.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome dear.
... and as for your "religion" comment on my post: you see, I consider my FAITH intertwined to the whole of me; I don't have the different aspects of myself boxed into little compartments; so yes, I don't know where my FAITH starts and my secular moral values end.
ox (again, just to be clear)
You really are in a foul mood, darling; don't take it to Croatia with you; pretty please?.

Madame Arcati said...

Moods come and go but my views are quite fixed.

Anonymous said...

" Once the unit conks out, it may be permitted to expire."

wow! - That last anon is who will start the "Logan's Run" system. My limit has expired aleady (Uh-oh)

Anonymous said...

I'm looking towards to be able to collect my pension and maybe travel a little while at it. Is that too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it time the Guardian brought out a Suicide supplement? It could examine the pros and cons, where you can get a good service, with a readers offer. Most of the hacks on that paper are liberal atheists so they'll be queuing up to tell us about their guesswork. Germaine Greer could assure us that instead of superstition we should cherish the human spirit as expressed in paintings and poetry - comforting if you paint or lyricise.

Madame Arcati said...

Dear ox, that depends on whether your pension is private or state. If the latter don't travel too far.

Anonymous said...

Oh god. I'm fucked.

Duralex said...

<< It's quite perverse and should not be encouraged. >>

Madame not encouraging perversion? That's a new one on me. You're so worryingly self-righteous, suddenly! What happened? Did you see your own ghost in the mirror?

Anonymous said...

Don't post that.

Anonymous said...

Ouch! You did. Pardon my French

Anonymous said...

What Madame wants Madame gets.

veritas said...

I take on-board your comments Madame but remember, the act of suicide in various cultures carries different beliefs. Japan for instance where it was considered the noblest of activities. And then you get the Catholic influenced Germany with the dimwit Eva Braun topping herself and Adolph offing himself really in a cowardly fashion (or did he..Paraguay?). Which brings me to the old "a gentleman would take his pistol and go out into the woods"..I personally would take my pistol out to the woods and then scarper asap.

And then every variation in between-those in so much mental pain suicide seems to be the only escape. How can we judge others frame of mind at a certain time ?.Or others who are just insane.

I've always remembered the very moment I read that the William Hickey columnist Timothy Swallow was found dead in a Sydney hotel from a Tuinal OD distressing everyone who knew the lovable and gentle chap although no-one really knows if it was intentional or not.

Others said they were ashamed of him being "such a coward ", I disagreed-basically knowing that someone should have ensured he knew that jetlag going south of the Equator sends the mind quite insane for a week or 2 as many a celeb has found when interviewed upon arrival and talked mumbo jumbo into the microphones (even the ones not on drugs)

But don't folk commit long suicides in many ways..say drinking themselves to death eventually- (which I hope doesn't happened to someone addicted to French champagne).

No I welcome a place like Dignitas-but not that particular establishment.Just too plain and practical in that Swiss manner. (they probably have a frigging cuckoo clock in the room to boot).

Now if some similar 5 star place opened in Paris or Rome, that would be worth considering.

Madame Arcati said...

As I say, if people are determined to top themselves then they will. That's another matter.

The matter here is how to deal with suicidal people who wish to be "assisted" and how the state should respond to this. The growing secular view is that if people want to die let them because they have a right to. And euthanasia is already practised widely in hospitals by the use of powerful drugs administered towards the end of life.

As for Japan, more and more men in their 30s are killing themselves, mainly over work-related stress. The Times reported last year: "The crisis of despair gripping young working Japanese has triggered plenty of official and media hand-wringing, though little in the way of change in corporate Japan. Wages remain low, and hierarchies rigid."

This goes beyond our discussion of assisted suicide, I know. But once the state sanctions services to help people kill themselves, then will follow the gradual widening of the definition of what's meant by "dignity". In time, death will become a formal option when life gets very difficult.

Vincent said...

In this nanny state, has anyone the guts any more to be an outlaw?

If I recall correctly the national debate about Dignitas started with someone wanting to help someone else get there to die, but not wanting to be prosecuted.

Fortunately the courts have not yet budged on this issue. It remains illegal to help someone commit suicide, but the courts will use discretion on whether to prosecute.

What’s wrong with that? Let there be outlaws. Dare I say the rot set in when homosexuality was made legal? Now no one dares do anything unless they can say “I broke no law”, like a greedy MP or banker.

Laws are sometimes stupid. We are free to break them and risk the consequences. An ethical system, or someone’s personal morality, is an entirely different matter, and should never be based on the law.

veritas said...

While Madame is correct that Dignitas is drumming up business (but is that so bad ?) the very name really puts me off as well (though not the service they provide).

Sounds like a name dreamed up by a second rate advertising agency-and a very dull Swiss one at that (dullness being a Swiss trait)

I mean Cryogenics-now that is name to be reckoned with-futuristic, scientific and sort of friendly like. Makes you really consider having your head lopped off and frozen at the right time

But if Dignitas opened a wing at the George V I'd certainly consider making a future booking.

But I'm puzzled by Madame's fierce opposition as I thought, she thought similar to me-that we all come back for another visit after time and a chinwag with lost friends and ancestors.

Does Madame really want to end up in the Be Bop a Lulu retirement home for retired bloggers being fed mushy soup via a straw and no longer enjoying the odd enema from her bethrothed,mumbling incoherently and having lost all control and soiling the sheets by the hour?

Madame Arcati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...

I wouldn't mind the Be Bop a Lulu retirement home for retired bloggers - but I'd lobby for better soup.

As someone familiar with Spiritualism you'll know that it's best if we live our lives through all conditions until circs take us on.

veritas said...

yes..I believe I shall carry on until the last moment and until officially declared deceased when the funeral pyre shall be lit.

I think that has happened to me in so many previous lives maybe I'm yearning for the experience of topping ones self.

But perhaps I should be wary-I don't want to get into that other realm only to be told I have to go back and finish off whatever it is I'm supposed to do in this life ! Perish the thought.

In that case I'll book the bed next to your's Madame and we can share bedpans. (But I certainly won't be letting Molly Parkin give me an enema.)