Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Everyone's Right to Die
Sunday night The Good Wife television drama had several concurrent plots going, including a trial of doctors in Oregon being sued by a family for assisting their adult daughter in taking her own life because of an incurable condition. The lawyer acting on behalf of the family actually supported assisted suicide but was able to challenge aspects of what the physicians had done. There was evidence that a new treatment had been developed for the disease, and the motives of the boyfriend were called into question in supporting his partner to take her life. In the discussion behind the scenes it was noted that in Belgium individuals can use depression as a reason to terminate their lives, a slippery slope.
In other words, the courtroom drama looked at an number of aspects of a subject which is being addressed in many jurisdictions, as well as the practices in places where laws have already been passed. The term "the right to die" is often used to describe these initiatives which I find curious because not only do we all have the right to die, it is a certainty. The other questions include whether the right to die is solely an individual choice, whether society can do a better job of supporting those who are in distress or in seriously compromised health.
It shouldn't surprise any of us that this is an ethical challenge which has been taken up by religious groups across the theological spectrum. Some churches and other religions are categorically against assisted suicide, while others, including the United Church, are more sympathetic yet upholding the sanctity of life. There is nothing easy about this discussion, even though there are some who would suggest it is straightforward. I have mentioned before that I know physicians who have no interest in becoming the "angel of death" even though they are committed to palliative care and not blindly entering into extraordinary measures to prolong life.
The new Liberal government is well aware that the Supreme Court of Canada has given until February 6th 2016 to amend the current law on assisted suicide but may request a six-month extension. This strikes me as prudent and I hope that the extension is granted. We can pray for the wisdom of those in the decision-making process.
Did any of you catch The Good Wife episode? It is available "on demand." Has your mind changed over time? Is this an issue that we should be addressing as communities of faith? Do you know someone who wanted to end his or her own life but couldn't get help to do so?