Editorial Comment

On The Sanctity Of Life

Many of us have been struggling recently with the issue of legal doctor-assisted suicide now that the issue has come before the Supreme Court of Canada. To date, I had been of the opinion that we are better off as a society if we do not have legalized suicide. It is an opinion that I suspect strongly is not the majority view, however.

I was shaken in my belief recently, however, by a headline in a competing newspaper (the National Post) entitled, “Don’t Tell Me How to Die” by John Moore. The headline encapsulated in that single statement what was, to me, the strongest argument for supporting the legalization of doctor-sanctioned suicide. Why should it matter to me how another person wants to end their life? How can it possibly make a difference to other individuals if it doesn’t affect them directly?

After more contemplation I have concluded it does matter, though. It matters because I fervently believe that one of the aspects of western civilization that has made us more successful than other nations is that, as modern, progressive people, we value life. Any time society undercuts the value of a life, we are all diminished. It is therefore, in a society’s best interest to hold every life to be sacred. This precludes such concepts as capital punishment, post early-term abortions and legal, physician-assisted suicide; concepts until now have been foreign to us.

You can tell we already do value life in our culture, just by reading the newspaper or watching the news. There are heroes programs in most communities to recognize people who have saved lives without thought for their own safety. “It’s what anyone would have done,” they all say.

You can also see we value living when we hear of some poor individual that has a disease with medication costing thousands of dollars a month. If a generous philanthropist doesn’t come through, the government quietly does. These people aren’t just written off. Here in the western world, life is a core value. It matters to us as a progressive nation and we know we have to protect that core value because the loss of it means the loss of our own civil ways.

This idea of life being something to treasure and protect seems to have been lost on certain groups, and even some governments. Anyone who might support the concept of, “honour killing,” for example, cannot possibly consider life to be sacred. The same goes for any group that is involved in human trafficking and modern day slavery. Groups that discount life like Boko Haram, Hamas, ISIS and others see individuals as pawns in the grand scheme of things. We see human life as the whole point to the grand scheme of things.

Yes, this is to me, all about that slippery slope some commenters feel is a specious argument. The government will make sure only those in the most serious straits will be allowed, they claim. But the slippery slope is already happening in Belgium. They are the first nation to allow children to choose death for themselves or with a note from their parents. They have also allowed inmates serving a life sentence to opt for assisted suicide. (This seems a most frugal idea but would not likely be an issue in Canada, however, given that life sentences usually only last about 15 years on average and there are few murderous senior citizens.)

In every way, holding life as something that should be preserved and protected makes us better people. We care about the lives of our fellow citizens. We care about the lives of our troops and never want to get into pointless wars that might waste theirs. We have a medical system that treats every life as important as a reflection of the high regard we hold for it as a nation.

Yes, we do have non-resuscitate orders which are appropriate for the direst medical cases. My father had such an arrangement. However, this is not the same thing at all. Wanting to end your life shows a disconnect between your thoughts and a normal mind’s drive for self-preservation. Being willing not to be revived considers the continuance of life, at least until a catastrophic failure.

The problem with state-accepted suicide is that it not only means the state sees life as incrementally less important, but that people see suicide as a reasonable solution to their problems. This is the ultimate in running away from your troubles. When there is no shame to wanting to throw your life away, people include it more readily into their plans. Is this a good thing?

In Belgium, where you don’t need a physical ailment to legally get a doctor to end your life; where even being depressed will do, their suicide rate is more than 50% higher than Canada’s. People are getting approval to end it all because they are broke and in debt. Belgium is now considering whether to let people without the mental capacity to make the decision themselves be put to death, sorry, euthanized.

It seems to me the Belgium situation is the ideal example of the slippery slope in action. It is no wonder handicapped groups are far less likely to be against euthanasia fearing they may be next.

When the government allows that first person to legally shed their mortal coil, it truly is like a glass door that must be broken to be entered. Once it is broken, it is very hard not to let more and more people in. It may not happen in five years or ten years, but over time, the “allowables” will expand and expand until, for all we know, it may even become popular.

The time to stop it is now.

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