Many people struggle to articulate why they are against euthanasia or assisted suicide. Taking the life of another human being is innately wrong, but in today’s world, that argument doesn’t necessarily resonate. There is a utilitarian element in our world that is unaffected by taking life deemed expendable, like life in the womb. Post-moderns are also not accustomed to suffering, so the notion that someone at the end of life should be made to live through grueling pain sounds barbaric to the modern mind.
How does one demonstrate, quickly and effectively, that euthanasia and assisted suicide are barbaric and not worthy of the dignity of human beings?
Here are just a few suggestions.
1 – WHAT IS HUMAN DIGNITY?
In an Ottawa Citizen article (October 14, 2014) by Catherine Frazee, a zealous and articulate disability rights activist, recalled her recent presentation to parliamentarians.
“I don’t believe that anyone should take a position on medically assisted dying without first understanding what dignity is, and what it is not.”
Do the elderly and disabled have dignity, or is it something that comes and goes with physical or cognitive ability? Catherine Frazee maintains that as someone who considers “immobility, incontinence, impairment and dependence to be routine conditions of life, [her own] physical and cognitive powers are not the source of human dignity. As these powers attenuate, human life does not lose its inherent value.”
2. SAFEGAURDS WILL NOT PROTECT US FROM ABUSE
“Safeguards” cannot stop human nature from being ill intentioned or making mistakes. Interestingly, it was for this very reason that capital punishment was eradicated in most parts of the Western World.
Senator Ann Cools made this point in the Senate debate on euthanasia (Dec. 4th, 2014). She said, “many years ago, this country, Canada, moved, like most Western countries in acknowledging that no human being has the power to take another human being's life. This was demonstrated in many communities by their abolition of capital punishment, on the grounds that no human decision and no human decision-making apparatus is so perfect as to be accurate in every circumstance.”
3. DEATH AS A MEDICAL OPTION CREATES A ‘DUTY TO DIE’
Euthanasia threatens all of us by compromising the medical community’s unwavering commitment to each person’s life. When the administration of death via lethal injection becomes a medical option, it presents a temptation to forfeit the harder, more expensive rehabilitative treatments.
It is a subtle, even unspoken, pressure on those in a weakened state to accept medically induced death rather than burden the system, their families, and busy, important doctors.
4. EUTHANASIA BECOMES A HUMAN RIGHT
The law is society’s great teacher. The acceptance of euthanasia by law will teach society that killing people who are suffering is not only good, but a ‘right’.
Once euthanasia becomes accepted as a human right, it will strip society of the ability to deny this right to certain groups of people. Rights apply to all people and any denial can and will be challenged as an infringement.
We see this today in other countries, as the list of conditions and situations in which people can request and receive medically induced death widens. Belgium now accepts the euthanasia of children. They have begun to consider it for prison inmates, and have for years accepted it for the depressed and those who have no terminal illness what-so-ever.
5. THE BURDEN ON PHYSICIANS
This places a heavy burden on physicians who must complete the final act of taking life. As Sean Murphy, director of The Protection of Conscience Project* points out, most doctors will not want to participate in the practice of euthanasia or PAS, but they will never-the-less be affected by it.
“Euthanasia proponents deny that they intend to force physicians to personally kill patients, but the exercise of freedom of conscience by objecting physicians can lead to unjust discrimination against them. Discriminatory screening of physicians unwilling to kill patients can be effected by denying them employment in their specialties and denying them hospital privileges. “
6. THE CHOICE TO DIE WITH DIGNITY
Though clever sounding, this argument from “personal choice” or 'autonomy" is a moot point, considering that the entire social and medical structure will need to be re-engineered to allow someone else, namely a medical doctor charged with healing, to kill or provide for your suicide. The act of euthanasia or assisted suicide intimately involves, and therefore seriously affects, all the people involved in the medically induced death.
7. PALLIATIVE CARE
The answer for those who are terminally ill, and only those who are terminally ill, is palliative care. Palliative care is only available to between 16 and 30 percent of Canadians. This truly compassionate care of the dying should be receiving the lion’s share of the public’s attention, resources and ingenuity. It offers effective reprieve from suffering, time to prepare for one’s death, and a truly dignified passing from this life.
* Refining the Practice of Medicine, June 2014, consciencelaws.org/law/commentary/legal068.aspx