Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/105

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powers. Suppose it were permitted, as Mr. Tollemache wishes, that, on receiving the testimony of two or three physicians that a man's case is hopeless, he might, if he chose, elect to die, and that popular feeling came to sanction that choice as the right choice; what can be clearer than that, in the absence of any relations to whom such patients were dear, and who took pleasure therefore in prolonging their life, there would spring up a tone of habitual displeasure and irritation toward all who chose to go on giving unnecessary trouble to the world, and that very soon the standard of 'unnecessary' trouble would begin inevitably to become lower and lower, so that all the organized charity which now expresses itself in our hospital system would gradually suffer 'a sea-change' into something by no means 'rich or strange'—a sort of moral pressure, on poor invalids with any thing like a prospect of long-continued helplessness, to demand the right of ridding the world of themselves? We say that it is in this reflex effect of the new code of feeling upon our thoughts of disease, in the transformation it would certainly make of pure pity into impatience and something like reproachful displeasure, that the extreme danger of arguing out this sort of question, on the superficial considerations of the balance of pain and pleasure for each individual case, is best seen."

In a letter to the same paper, Mr. F. A. Channing says: "It is odd that men whose thought is mainly an outcome of modern science should fail to apply what is, perhaps, the most striking conception of modern science—that of time in relation to growth—to questions such as this of Euthanasia. If the central human instincts on which morality rests are the slowly-won product of ages of moral growth, a practice out of harmony with the most fundamental of those instincts, however speculatively excellent, could not be introduced without mischief. It would sacrifice too much of human feeling before it had time to put itself on a rational footing. Even in the individual philosopher it may be doubted whether reason could remodel instinct so as to make the sense of duty in such a case really complete. In most men the overridden instincts would merely be replaced by selfishness and cruelty to the helpless. They would lose the gentleness of strength, without gaining the least glimpse of the new morality.

"In Euthanasia we are offered a refined copy of the customs of some savage tribes, among whom life is more difficult to maintain, and so less valuable. But, then, their instincts are on the level of their customs. There is no jar between calculation and sentiment, such as we should have. Such a jar would make the practice, if adopted among us, spring from an estimate of personal advantages, and not from the half-thought-out sense of what is best, which is duty to most men. And, where such imperative instincts as the desire to keep life for ourselves and our friends at all costs are directly repressed in forming and acting on this estimate, the result must be moral loss to all except the