Latimer's challenge

  • March 28, 2008

{mosimage}Robert Latimer’s highly publicized campaign to obtain a reversal of his second-degree murder conviction should force Canadians to think twice about our seemingly unstoppable “progress” toward legalized euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide.

Until recently Latimer was serving a 10-year prison sentence for the second-degree murder of his 12-year-old severely disabled daughter, Tracy. On Oct. 24, 1993, while Latimer’s wife and three other children were at church, he put Tracy in his pickup truck and caused exhaust fumes to be funnelled back into the truck. Tracy died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

He was arrested and years of legal proceedings ensued. Finally, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously on Jan. 18, 2001, that Latimer’s sentence was justified under the law. In March he was put on day parole and moved to Ottawa. From there he hopes to lobby the politicians to reverse his conviction, using the national media spotlight provided by the nation’s capital to draw attention  to his cause.

It is worth recalling those facts because they seem to have been lost in the apparently widespread sympathy for Latimer and those other “mercy killers” who have been convicted by Canadian courts but given more lenient sentences because of extenuating circumstances.

The general sympathy for mercy killing is hard to separate from similar levels of public support for the drive to legalize euthanasia and assisted-suicide. In fact, the conventional wisdom in Canada seems to accept that some lives are simply not worth living and certain folks should be put out of their misery — with or without their permission.

This blurring of the lines between these categories of killing — all of which are still prohibited by the Criminal Code in Canada, by the way — underlines an inescapable conclusion. Canadian legislators may try to hedge any law allowing euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide with all sorts of safeguards. But as long as significant numbers of Canadians feel certain human lives are expendable, the politicians and the courts will be constantly under pressure to expand the boundaries of legally acceptable killing.

It might at first be only doctor-assisted suicide under carefully monitored restrictions. But it won’t be long before those restrictions will be dispensed in the name of compassion for the pain and suffering of the target, er, sorry, patient.

The essence of the problem is that Canadians now measure the value of human life in terms of its “quality,” an extremely difficult to define term. Human beings are no longer valuable qua humans, but only in so far as they carry on “productive” lives.

This is a significant  — if not the only — reason why Christians who still believe in the sacred value of human life, along with those disabled persons and elderly who are the most vulnerable to someone else’s well-meaning desire to send them off to “a better place,” are so implacably opposed to euthanasia or assisted suicide.

The slippery slope in Canada is far too well-greased for comfort.

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