Life is for living

  • February 20, 2009
{mosimage}Could Francine Lalonde be thinking that the third time is a charm? It certainly appears that way as the Bloc Quebecois MP announced recently that she intends to table in Parliament, once again, a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Canada.

Lalonde’s first two attempts failed and never really were a threat to pass. And it could be said this time around that her efforts are bound to meet the same fate. After all, she is introducing her legislation as a private members’ bill, and it is very rare, almost to the point of impossible, for such a bill to pass.

That doesn’t mean that opponents should let their guard down. As Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition — Canada , says in these pages (see our story on Page 3), “Momentum has changed.” And it seems to be swinging in favour of assisted-suicide supporters.

That’s not to say the streets are filled with people demanding the right to die. But how often does one hear, when dealing with an elderly loved one or friend who is near death, someone inevitably say they should be able to put this person out of their misery? That they should be allowed to die with dignity? Probably more often than you would like.

We see the number of American states where the right-to-die question is being asked with greater frequency. Just last year in the U.S. presidential elections, a plebiscite in Washington State saw assisted suicide legalized, with 59 per cent of voters in favour. Hawaii and New Hampshire are right now looking at passing laws to legalize assisted suicide. And in Montana, the government is taking on a court decision that allowed for the legalization of assisted suicide.

And of course there is Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for the past decade.

The scary part of this scenario is the number of unfortunate cases that lead to a spike in sympathy for assisted suicide. Here in Canada we have had the Sue Rodriguez case in 1993. Rodriguez, who suffered from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, fought for the right to “die with dignity” rather than suffer from the neurodegenerative disorder. Then there was Robert Latimer, who took the life of his severely disabled daughter Tracy to relieve her of her suffering, and was convicted of murder. Of course there was the Terri Schiavo case in the United States, and now the Feb. 9 death in Italy of Eluana Englaro, whose father fought to have her feeding tube removed after 17 years in a coma, leading to her death despite being cared for by an order of nuns.

Emotions have to be kept in check when dealing with this matter. Decisions cannot be made by one case pulling at the heartstrings. That is the best weapon assisted-suicide proponents have.

Death will come, to all, and in due time. Catholics aren’t against dignity. There’s just no dignity in turning life and death into a bureaucratic decision or a consumer choice.

We have to make that argument more forcefully.

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