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Assessing the "Logic" of Legalized Euthanasia

Assessing the %22Logic%22 of Legalized Euthanasia.jpg

Journalist Andrew Coyne has written some of the best critiques of legalized euthanasia of which I am aware. He has another A+ effort out in Canada's National Post, reacting to the recommendations of an ethics panel for implementing that country's Supreme Court order to allow euthanasia. From "The Absurd Logic of Assisted Suicide":

When dispatching a patient by lethal injection, would a doctor be obliged to sterilize the needle?

I think they almost certainly would. Old habits die hard, you should pardon the expression, and the unconscious need to shroud an act that at time of writing remains illegal under the Criminal Code as a routine medical procedure would make it unthinkable to do otherwise, however nonsensical it may be.

That's the thing about normalizing suicide. It requires us to set aside all prior assumptions except the most absurd ones. It rushes past all sorts of distinctions that might once have seemed important -- between killing yourself and killing someone else, for example -- yet clutches wildly at others, as if they were any more likely to withstand the momentum of its logic.

Exactly. Once you accept euthanasia's premise, your mindset turns 180 degrees: Up becomes down, in becomes out, compassion becomes killing. Coyne's conclusion shows exactly where Canada -- and the U.S., if we keep following the same path (albeit, more slowly) -- are heading:

Advocates see suicide...as a release from suffering; not as an evil to be prevented, but as a service to be provided (indeed, the panel recommends it be done at public expense).

This presents the right to die, not as a limited one, such as the right to drive, but as an unlimited one, inhering in all persons -- rather like the right to life. And, it has to be said, it is by far the more coherent of the two arguments.

For if assisted suicide is a right to be released from suffering, how can that be restricted to adults? Are we to condemn children to endless torment, where we would not an adult?

Likewise for the mentally incompetent: Are we really so indifferent to their pain as to allow their disability to stand in the way of its alleviation? If they are unable to consent to their own death, should they not be assisted, intellectually, in the same way as those physically unable to kill themselves are to be assisted?

This is not some dire prophecy. It is, as the panel reminds us, the logic of assisted suicide. By making it lawful to euthanize children, we would only be following where Belgium and the Netherlands have led; by applying it to the mentally ill, we would be doing no more than Switzerland has already done.

If that is where we want to go, so be it. But let us at least be clear that that is what is really at stake.

Indeed. The lure of death is becoming like a black hole from which little light escapes. Or as Coyne put it so well several years ago in the wake of widespread public support for a father who murdered his 12-year-old daughter because she had cerebral palsy:

A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.

I fear we are devolving into that nihilistic society. It is still not too late to stop the slide. But we had better do that quickly, or we will soon be over the cliff.

Image: � kevron2001 / Dollar Photo Club.

Cross-posted at Human Exceptionalism.