Among the Intellectualoids

Correction: J. K. Rowling Advocates Physician-Assisted Suicide

Her fiction is not unconnected to life.

By 8.17.07

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In my previous article, I pointed out that J. K. Rowling's making the standard arguments for euthanasia the motivation for Severus Snape's accession to Albus Dumbledore's request that Snape kill him amounted to advocacy of euthanasia. I stand corrected. What I had not realized was that this conversation in which Dumbledore appeals to Snape's compassion for a sick old man was in the context of a doctor-patient relationship (Deathly Hallows, pp. 680-681).

Indeed, Professor of Potions Snape has a detailed knowledge of healing potions and incantations with which, for example, he saved Draco Malfoy from bleeding to death when cut up by Harry's Sectasempra curse in the previous book. Dumbledore only regains consciousness after Snape pours "a golden potion down Dumbledore's throat" (p. 680). And after giving him the bad news that he has no more than a year to live, Snape lectures his patient in true doctorly fashion: "'If you had only summoned me a little earlier, I might have been able to do more, buy you more time!' said Snape furiously." So Rowling is right on the cutting edge of the issue of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as it is playing out in Europe and the United States.

Rowling's brilliant portrayal of the defects of UK (and American) politicians and bureaucrats through the medium of the blindness, ruthless ambition, and incompetent arrogance of the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Magic shows her to be an incisive critic of the political scene. She cannot be unaware of the political tendency of the moral arguments she is instilling into the minds of unsuspecting children.

This is why we cannot treat these fantasies as fictions unrelated to life. The greatest moral teachers and the greatest demagogues have always used stories to teach either their moral and spiritual truths or their lies. These are children's books that are forming the unconsciously absorbed worldview and morality of millions of children.

From the perspective of orthodox Christians, whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Reformed (my perspective); a murder-suicide pact cannot be justified by any hoped for result (e.g., preserving Snape's double-agency) because it violates a clear commandment of God. As another British literary artist put it, God has "fix'd his canon 'gainst self-slaughter" (Hamlet) and other forms of murder. Parents need to know it when an author of children's books justifies such law-breaking in the minds of children.

The issue comes down to this: Are your ethics based on an end-justifies-any-means morality or on an objective and unchanging code? Rowling along with the media and academic elites of the modern West opt for the former; many conservatives and all orthodox Christians for the latter.

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