Do we as Canadians not hold the value of all life as sacred?
Is it not self-evident that human beings, by virtue of their humanity, are objectively valuable? Does that value makes them equal in worth to one another?
In every state of life should we not support that value?
The argument people use is the fact that they want to die with dignity. This argument is disingenuous, can you still not have dignity even if you have lost everything else including your health? This is not just an issue for those seeking assisted suicide but also an issue for the vulnerable of society, of which will be the next on the list as is proven by cases in other countries that have opened the door to this. But we can also look closer to home.
One example of this exploitation of the vulnerable is evident in the case of Robert and Tracy Latimer. Because she was severely handicapped he did not think her life should continue so he killed her.
However, because he made the case that it was an act of mercy, he was only found guilty of second degree murder (thought it was clearly premeditated) and given only a two-year sentence (of which only one would be spent in prison).
Eventually his sentence was appealed and he received the minimum ten year sentence.
Because he was in minimum security he was able to complete apprenticeships in prison and still managed his farm.
Apparently disabled people like Tracy are not protected by the law to the same extent as fully autonomous people because they do not demonstrate the same degree of autonomy as others. Understood this way, human dignity is not really for humans – it is dignity for autonomous agents.
If removing choice and control (autonomy) is tantamount to removing dignity, than dignity is subjective and easily lost. Infants, the disabled, seniors, and even people who are sleeping have lost control over themselves.
Another example is a prisoner of war in a concentration camp – what dignity would they have if they lost the ability to make choices in accordance with their aspirations?
If the court is going to be consistent, it would have to conclude that these people have also lost their dignity.
Yet this is contrary to reality. We recognize prisoners of war with medals of bravery and hold them in high esteem for what they went through.
Rather than hoping that their lives be extinguished to preserve them further suffering, we rejoice when they persevere against all odds.
Likewise we treat our grandparents with even greater care when they lose some of the functioning that makes it more difficult to look after themselves.
We also applaud the disabled for their determination. In all of these situations, it is apparent that dignity is not about making a choice to give up.
Rather, it is about facing life with courage, gentleness, kindness, decency, hope, determination, and faith in spite of the circumstances of life.
Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide further will weaken the legal protection for Canada‘s most vulnerable people.
The sad reality is that in countries where euthanasia is legalized, a large percentage of those who die never give their consent.
Others decide for them that their life isn‘t worth living.
For example, the 2009 statistics from the Netherlands that were released show that 550 deaths happened without explicit request or consent.
To add to that, the overall number of euthanasia deaths increased by an astounding 13% over 2008.
Why are these numbers skyrocketing? Who decides when someone no longer has the dignity to continue to live?
In an aging welfare society where seniors and the disabled are increasingly seen as a burden on the state, it is hard to believe that the patient‘s dignity is what determines whether they live.
Using dignity talk to justify this shameful reality reveals that the concept itself is being exploited.
We need to hold truth, respect, and the value of human life paramount in our lives.