Life has lost its importance

MICHAEL COREN

This week, the first International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is being held in Toronto.

Scholars and activists from across the world will gather to discuss and affirm what really are extremely basic concepts — that people should not kill themselves, that life is always valuable, and that not even doctors, nurses or relatives have the liberty to decide when a person’s life should end.

Problem is, life is considered one of the least significant issues in Western culture. Compared to opinions on the state of the market or the state of Paris Hilton, the notion of a person’s inalienable right to live appears rather meager. Or to put it another way, life is only assumed to be significant when it is thought to be of quality.

Being old, handicapped or even unattractive are at best unfashionable and at worst unacceptable. Life is not precious in itself but measured to the degree that it is ostensibly glamorous, stylish or important. And none of these characteristics are instantly applied to the dying, the severely disabled and the very old. Which leads us to the cult of euthanasia.

Whether we use terms such as assisted suicide, compassionate homicide or mercy killing, it all amounts to the same thing. The decision by one or more people to end the life of another person who may or may not have asked to die.

The general view is that all depends on will. In other words, if a person does indeed ask for death it is their body and their choice. Yet surely the very last people who can make calm and balanced decisions about life and death are those who are suffering or are in pain. Anguish and emotion are powerful factors and they make for an often gripping story. But by their very nature they obscure clear thought.

More than this, nobody should actually be in pain. Modern methods of relief are such that all pain can be controlled — if not, the doctor is at fault. Nor are dying or seriously ill people insular beings, somehow cut off from outside influence. “It would be so much easier for the kids if they didn’t have to come all this way to see me like this.” Or, “I can’t serve any real purpose any more. I’ve had a good life anyway.” Such thoughts do not make for objective decisions and account for myriad euthanasia cases.


In countries where euthanasia is permitted there are numerous cases of grotesque abuse. In the Netherlands, a Roman Catholic nun, a strong opponent of euthanasia, was recently killed by medical staff, and it is estimated by neutral sources that up to one-third of the Dutch victims of euthanasia are killed without their or their family’s consent being given.


As for our lives being completely our own, even the Canadian state does not believe this. We are, for example, obliged by law and punishment to wear seat belts in cars and urged by government to stop smoking, wear bicycle helmets and visit our doctor so as to live longer.

Precedent also tells us a great deal. In countries where euthanasia is permitted there are numerous cases of grotesque abuse. In the Netherlands, a Roman Catholic nun, a strong opponent of euthanasia, was recently killed by medical staff, and it is estimated by neutral sources that up to one-third of the Dutch victims of euthanasia are killed without their or their family’s consent being given.

Closer to home, a Canadian woman named Karen Shoffstall was 33 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The illness is, of course, terrible, but many MS sufferers live long and full lives.

According to her mother, Karen was “mentally unstable.” She fantasized, and sometimes made up stories that were simply untrue. Once she was diagnosed with MS she became terribly anxious, convinced that she was about to lose her job and her friends.

None of this is unusual in such circumstances, and most of it can be dealt with by a competent therapist. Unfortunately, Karen did not go to see a therapist but instead wrote in 1997 to that doyen of euthanasia, Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Karen, Kevorkian and one of his helpers met in a Detroit hotel room. Shortly afterwards, the young woman was dead. She had been knocked unconscious by barbiturates and killed by potassium chloride.

Like his supporters in the euthanasia movement, Kevorkian claimed that he has a long list of requirements before he would help someone to take their own lives. Yet Karen did not use a wheelchair and seldom even used a cane. But she was scared. That, it seems, was sufficient.

It is no coincidence that the most outspoken opponents of euthanasia are the handicapped. They are justifiably concerned about how they will be treated in a society increasingly obsessed with ending what is seen as life lacking in quality. They also know that for every seemingly compelling story of a dying person merely wanting closure, there are innumerable cases of the vulnerable being coerced into assisted suicide and the powerless being murdered.

Which rather brings us back to the state of the market and the state of Paris Hilton. Comedy or tragedy? Perhaps the latter.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Michael Coren, "Life has lost its importance." National Post, (Canada) November 27, 2007.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post.

THE AUTHOR

Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.

 

He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

Copyright © 2007 National Post



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