Let’s talk about life

  • October 17, 2013

Canadians can’t stop talking about the appropriateness of allowing the weakest and sickest members of society to be killed.

In Quebec, legislation has been tabled to legalize medical euthanasia. Last month in Ontario, after a popular doctor died from a brain tumour his family released an emotional video promoting assisted suicide for the terminally ill. And most recently in British Columbia, an appeals court reversed a lower court decision and ruled that assisted suicide is still illegal in Canada.

The confluence of these events has intensified calls for a national debate on end-of-life issues. The way things are heading, it seems inevitable that euthanasia and assisted suicide will once again be argued in the Supreme Court of Canada. Before that, however, Canadians would be better served if the matter of life and death came to Parliament for a full and public airing.

And that debate should not be restricted to euthanasia and assisted suicide. What Canada needs is an honest conversation about human life itself. All human life. From conception to death. Based on the best medical, scientific, ethical and religious information available, let’s examine life. What is it? When does it begin? How should it end?

A year ago, MP Stephen Woodworth asked Parliament to convene a special committee of experts to examine when human life begins. Sadly, instead of igniting a mature conversation, Woodworth was widely scorned and his motion roundly rejected. How ironic now that many of the same people who jeered a proposal to examine when life begins now want to dictate when life should end.

That aside, there should indeed be a national debate but it should be about life, not death. A society that proudly advocates for human rights and human dignity, a society that historically has embraced the sanctity of life, should welcome a chance to apply those values to a discussion about the very question of human life itself, all life, from its start to finish.

Reaching a full understanding on what constitutes human life is necessary before even starting the discussion on whether one person has a right to kill another, regardless of the circumstances. A fundamental Canadian principle is that life has an inalienable, intrinsic value. Every person is equal in worth and all life has dignity. Faith, too, has a place in the discussion. All of this needs to be discussed in an open forum.

And that debate belongs in Parliament, where science, medicine, ethics, morality and, yes, even faith, can be given a voice through elected representatives and other public forums. Such important public policy should not be left to nine unelected Supreme Court judges working within a strict legal framework. They should be followers, not leaders in this debate.

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