Thomas Harris, in his popular account of transactional analysis ‘I’m OK–You’re OK’, describes a toxic life position known as ‘I’m OK–You’re not OK’. How long, Dr No wonders, will it be before the current spate of ‘mercy’ killings mutate via ‘I’m not OK–You’re not OK’ to ‘I’m not OK–You’re Dead’ and then ‘I’m OK–You’re Dead’?
Make no mistake, Dr No has every sympathy with mothers like Frances Inglis, and the appalling predicament they find themselves in. But he also sees creep at work. And creep is nasty, sinister, very sinister…
In the outpourings in the media about Inglis, we find a variety of views of many shades. But most are deeply sympathetic. We have The Mirror’s heart-on-sleeve Don’t punish this Mother Courage. We have the Times talking of That deep maternal urge…to kill your child. There are many others, all in the same vein. There is even a Welsh windbag who insists we should ‘show her some mercy’. The general tenor is one of great sympathy for a mother who, facing the ultimate challenge, carried out the ultimate act of love – she killed her child. Dr No is sure he is not alone in finding the juxtaposition of ultimate love and killing unsettling.
We must be very careful here. What we are doing is wrapping the intentional killing of one human being by another – murder – in a sickly wrap of emotional wool that contrives to have us feel that somehow, because it was a mother acting out of love for her damaged son, because the killing was done ‘with love in her heart’, not only was it acceptable, it was even noble.
But it is unsettling. The reason it is unsettling is because it is based on the premise that one individual can know what is best for another individual. The mother-son bond has here fudged the underlying process. Tom – her son – was in a persistent vegetative state. We have no idea what life was like for him, or what his views – if indeed he had any – were. Instead, another individual – albeit his mother – made a judgement about Tom. That individual judged Tom’s life to be intolerable – and judged that the right thing to do was to kill him.
France Inglis may have been right. She certainly faced the most appalling predicament. But we must not loose sight of the fact that, if we do accept that Inglis was right to make that judgement, and act accordingly, then what we are saying is that in certain situations – in this case one of mother and son – it is acceptable for one individual to judge the life of another and, if she so judges, end that life.
But not all mothers have ‘love in their heart’. Some have anger and fury. Some will act not from love, but from malice. How are we to know what motive drives the next Frances Inglis?
And if a mother can make such a judgement, why not a father – or a spouse. Or a physician? Or – one day – a representative of the state? ‘I’m OK–You’re not OK’; then, one day, ‘I’m OK–You’re Dead’. A transaction, just like any other. Transactional euthanasia.