Monday, November 14, 2011

Assisted Suicide in Canada

Dear Theophilus,

Almost 20 years after upholding the sanctity of life to its natural conclusion by denying Sue Rodriguez the right to assisted suicide, the Canadian judicial system is once again being asked to give humans divine power over life and death.

Landmark Case Renews Debate on Right to Die (Petti Fong, The Toronto Star, Nov. 13, 2011)

VANCOUVER—The legal and moral arguments over Canada’s assisted suicide laws will be front and centre in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday as lawyers launch a challenge on behalf of a terminally ill woman.

They will seek again, as Sue Rodriguez did almost 20 years ago in a case that went to the Supreme Court of Canada, to argue against laws that make it a criminal offence to help seriously ill people end their lives.

The Rodriguez application to receive assisted suicide was rejected by Canada’s highest court in 1993 by a 5-4 decision. A year later, Rodriguez decided to take her own life with the help of an anonymous physician.

The current challenge originated when Lee Carter and her husband filed a suit earlier this year. They are joined by Gloria Taylor, 63, who has late-stage ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, an incurable illness that gradually weakens and degenerates muscles to the point of paralysis.

Taylor is one of five plaintiffs in the case, which also includes family physician Dr. William Shoichet, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Carter and her husband Hollis Johnson.

Because the courts had rejected Rodriguez’s claim, she was technically committing a crime by killing herself with help from a physician. Under Canadian laws, it is illegal to counsel, aid or abet a person to commit suicide. If convicted, the offence could result in a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Read the entire article here.

The plaintiffs and those of the numerous people supporting assisted suicide on the Toronto Star’s use the argument that people deserve the right to die with dignity. The point that these people are missing is that the dignity is not in the choosing when and how to die, but rather in how one approaches death. Granted, ALS and other diseases are horribly painful, but so too was the Crucifixion. Stripped and nailed to a tree, Christ did not die with physical dignity, but the stoicism with which he met the death he knew was coming surpasses the dignity any human can hope to have as we pass from one life to the next.

Dignity aside, why should we, as Catholics, stand up against assisted suicide?

To answer this question, we need to return to the greatest commandments that Christ gave us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt 22:37) and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mt 22:39). The act of suicide, assisted or otherwise, goes against both of these commandments.

Suicide goes against our most basic human instinct, that of survival. All life comes from our loving Creator God. It is a spiteful act to throw this precious gift back in His face through suicide. Suicide is a complete rejection of His love.

By asking some one to assist you in suicide, you are then acting against the commandment to love your neighbour, as you are asking that person to put themselves into a state of mortal sin. Aiding some one with suicide puts the physician in direct contravention of the 6th commandment: “Thou shall not kill.” (Ex 20:13)

The arguments against assisted suicide can go much deeper ethically than space permits here. Once permission has been granted to consciously end human life with reason, that same reasoning can and will then be extended to the disabled and elderly. Fighting for a culture of life may be unpopular in a society of the individual, but without life we could not be the individuals that God calls us to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment