May 17, 2012

UK: Society 'sanctioning violence' against elderly warns Cardinal

 LEICESTER UK / The Telegraph / Society / May 16, 2012

In a rare public intervention, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said that there was a “subtle and silent” process of “dehumanising” older people at work through common attitudes. 

He said a loss of “reverence” for humanity meant that some of the most vulnerable people in society are now routinely viewed as a “problem” or “threat”.
And he said that political decisions to cut back on vital care services amounted to denying older people’s fundamental right to life.
The Cardinal retired as Archbishop of Westminster, and leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, three years ago.

Cardinal fears legalise assisted suicide could create 'collateral damage' on society
He remains the senior Cardinal in the British Isles and, alongside Cardinal Keith O’Brien in Scotland, he is a voting member of the body which will chose the next Pope – a position he will relinquish later this year when he turns 80. 

In a wide-ranging lecture at Leicester's Anglican Cathedral, he spoke of a “deep unease” in western society, the importance of the family unit, religious freedom and questions such as assisted suicide.

He warned of a tendency to view human beings as a “product” or a “commodity” resulting in people ultimately being viewed as “disposable”.

“Instead of regarding the elderly as a source of value in their own right, a resource for families and communities especially in an increasingly fragmented social and cultural world, we view them as a problem or a threat,” he said.

“We have lost that deep reverence for humanity in all its different conditions.”

He quoted Cicero to illustrate that debates about care for the elderly date back millennia.

“An ageing population certainly presents its challenges – not least to our prejudices – but it is also an extraordinary gift,” he continued.

“When society only sees age as an expensive inconvenience, a threat to resources and lifestyles, it no longer sees a person but a problem.

“This permits a slow erosion of dignity; subtly and silently the process of dehumanisation has begun.”

He went on: “A symptom of this is the violence against the vulnerable elderly now documented in a number of independent studies and reports and the neglect which many have to endure.

“You do not care for what you do not cherish.

"If we load the elderly, or indeed any group, with fears – the fear of dementia and Alzheimer’s, the fear of growing dependence and the loss of autonomy, the fear of exhausting resources – you sanction violence against them.

“This need not only be physical, it can take other forms: it can be cultural in the way in which we dismiss their views or blame them; it can be political in the ways in which we justify withdrawal of vital services or quietly and privately deny their right to life.”

He also voiced feared that attempts to legalise assisted suicide could create "collateral damage" on society and leave vulnerable elderly people exposed to “darker” motivations.

“Of course, there are compassionate relatives who give that assistance with great reluctance and out of genuine compassion,” he said.

“But there is a darker side to humanity that we ignore at our peril.

“Not all cases of assisted suicide represent the final act or acts of love or the culmination of a lifelong loving relationship.

“The trouble with enabling laws is that they have a tendency, once they are on the statute book, to encourage the acts that they enable.”

He added: “Laws are not precision guided missiles. They have a habit of inflicting collateral damage well beyond the intended target area.”

 © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012


________________________________________________________
Credit: Reports and photographs are property of owners of intellectual rights.
Seniors World Chronicle, a not-for-profit, serves to chronicle and widen their reach.