Posted by: Witch Doctor | January 31, 2010

The spectrum of killing


Let’s just call it killing.

Suicide, assisted suicide, aiding and abetting suicide, voluntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia, murder, manslaughter and all the softer nuances that are sometimes used in the context of killing – exit, dignity, a good death etc etc.

And lets add in The Liverpool Care Pathway.

They are all killing.

Let’s not try to patch up the concept of killing with “but there was love in her/his heart.”

Lets keep the “love” emotion out of it.

After all, a depressed mother may kill a healthy child or two or three or four. Why not relieve your child of the future burden of living in a grief stricken world? Why not kill your healthy child out of love so they do not suffer as you have?


Lets have another term for something that could be confused with killing but should not be.

“Strive not officiously to keep alive.”

We witches often call it :

“The time has come to let nature take its course”

Dr No has written a helpful comment after one of his posts.


“Barton is also about LCP(ICP) creep – only when she was doing it, it wasn’t called the LCP. But the drugs and the idea were the same.

Euthanasia and mercy killing don’t exist in English law, but they most certainly exist as social constructs (Dr No apologises for sounding like a sociologist). Of the two terms, the Anglo-Saxon get closer to the mark than the Graeco-Roman. It is killing to prevent further suffering. When it is done by way of a positive act – active euthanasia – it is clear cut. Inglis and Gilderdale were both about positive acts intended to kill (injecting morphine with intent not to relieve pain but to kill) and so are clear cut cases of active euthanasia (albeit qualified in Gilderdale’s case by ‘attempted’ for the reasons given in the original post).

Where it gets blurred and confusing is at the boundary between passive euthanasia and not striving officiously to keep alive.

Not resuscitating Nikita’s ninety year old chap with end stage dementia is withholding life saving treatment, and allowing him to die, but no one – unless they are bonkers – is going to say that is passive euthanasia. It is recognising the humanity of not striving officiously to keep alive.

Turning off a life support machine on a premature baby that is not going to survive is withdrawing life sustaining treatment – but should we say that turning off that machine is euthanasia, albeit passive, or a humane avoidance of futile and burdensome treatment, and so a recognition of the importance of not striving officiously to keep alive?

Dr No suspects the answer will turn out to be a medical rather than a moral one. It will depend on the underlying pathology and prognosis. Where there is significant underlying pathology that is itself likely to be lethal, then, he suggests, we are in the realm of not striving officiously to keep alive. Where no such pathology of lethal import exists, and we act to allow death, then we have moved into the realm of passive euthanasia.

In other words it depends on what actually kills the patient. If it is the underlying disease, then it is not passive euthanasia. If it is the absence of treatment (whether withheld or withdrawn) – as in withholding artificial feeding and hydration leading to death by starvation/dehydration, then that is passive euthanasia. It may also be not striving officiously to keep alive, but it has gone one step further and so has become passive euthanasia.”

If there are any lawyers reading Dr No’s comment, this might be a good place to start.

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  1. “The time has come to let nature take its course” – couldn’t agree more. This is the point I was making about underlying pathology and prognosis. It is nature taking it’s course that leads to death, not the actions (or omissions) of self or another human being. That is why it is not killing (the generic term) or any of the subsets (suicide, euthanasia, murder etc).

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