April 20, 2024

Better off dead than a burden, says Warnock

Barones Mary Warnock

Britain’s best-known bioethicist, Baroness Warnock, has suggested that the elderly should request euthanasia rather than linger on as a burden on their families. In an interview in the London Times, the architect of the UK’s fertility laws said that “I know I’m not really allowed to say it, but one of the things that would motivate me [to die] is I couldn’t bear hanging on and being such a burden on people. In other contexts sacrificing oneself for one’s family would be considered good. I don’t see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance. If I went into a nursing home it would be a terrible waste of money that my family could use far better.”

The views of the 80-year-old Baroness Warnock could sway some MPs as the House of Commons prepares to debate the Mental Capacity Bill, which critics describe as back-door euthanasia. Back in 1993 she sat on a House of Lords committee which backed a complete ban on euthanasia. In recent times she has changed her mind and last year she supported a private member’s bill to legalise assisted suicide. She has also admitted that she allowed a GP to hasten the death of her husband, a former Oxford vice-chancellor, after he had been incapacitated by a lung condition in 1995.

In the Times interview, Baroness Warnock also argues that parents who want to keep their children on life-support systems should be charged for it, if doctors do not feel that they will have a healthy life. “Maybe it has come down to saying, ‘OK, they can stay alive but the family will have to pay for it.’ Otherwise it will be an awful drain on public resources,” she said.