The argumentum ad hominem is widely regarded as the worst of arguments, but, you know, it’s fun. It’s also dangerous, as the riposte, tu quoque – what about you?—can be painful.
This takes us to the media in Scotland, where a bill for assisted dying is gathering momentum in Holyrood. An evangelical Christian multi-millionaire, Sir Paul Souter, has pledged nearly nearly £90,000 (US$125,000) to the anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing. This irked the political editor at the Daily Record, Paul Hutcheon, who interpreted this as a Christian plot to thwart progress in Scotland.
This in turn prompted a campaigner named Jamie Gillies to review the history of the right-to-die movement in the UK in the online journal Spiked – which turns out to be quite interesting and not a little scandalous.
The man who founded Dignity in Dying (originally the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society) was an English doctor, Killick Millard (1870-1952). Dr Millard was an unabashed supporter of eugenics. He contended that the “feeble-minded and mentally deficient” should be sterilised. Embarrassing quotes abound in his writing. This one is representative: “Those who constitute such a large proportion of the ‘submerged tenth’, the denizens of the slums, are without doubt at the present day the most prolific section of the community, whereas we should like to see them the least prolific.”
Canadian historian Ian Dowbiggin studied the career of Millard and concluded that – apart from supporting eugenics, he also looked favourably upon involuntary euthanasia:
“ … in principle he was not against the notion of euthanasia without consent nor was he unalterably opposed to applying euthanasia for eugenic purposes to young children with mental or emotional deficiencies. He opposed involuntary euthanasia primarily because he saw no possibility of its becoming law in the foreseeable future. In short, to raise the question of linking eugenics and euthanasia in the mid-1930s ‘would certainly create much prejudice’ against either or both movements. After some reflection, Millard concluded that the less said of a controversial nature about the eugenic significance of euthanasia the better.”
Will Dignity in Dying follow the lead of Planned Parenthood and MSI Reproductive Choices in cancelling the history of its founder? Millard’s name does not appear on its website – so perhaps it has already done so.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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