Monday, March 15, 2010
Tomorrow the subject of euthanasia will be debated again in the Canadian house of commons. A private members bill to legalize what is sometimes called "mercy killing" will be addressed. There are jurisdictions around the world where euthanasia is legal, including the state of Oregon in the US and the Netherlands. The practice has become much more widespread in the Netherlands during its thirty-year existence, moving from an option for the terminally ill to a variety of instances. One of the people responsible for the legislation there now has misgivings about the broadening of application.
Most Christian denominations are either opposed to or very cautious about euthanasia because of a commitment to the sanctity of life and concerns that abuses could take place. I did a paper on the subject many moons ago while in seminary and became aware then that a significant number of people desire euthanasia, not because of physical pain, but because they become isolated from others in their illnesses or feel that they are a burden to family. While distraught family members or the individual who is ill will make comments such as "we wouldn't make a dog suffer like this" the dynamics of our human relationships and our awareness of suffering and death are different. There is no simple or simplistic answer to this challenging ethical dilemma.
While I believe strongly in the provision of palliative care and accept that death is inevitable for us all, I have always been opposed to legalized euthanasia. I will point out that I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death with people many times through the years and rarely felt much differentl, although there have been a few occasions. Here is ethicist Margaret Somerville's outlook on euthanasia from today's Globe and Mail.
What are your thoughts about the bill, and this subject in general?