Over the weekend, the Ottawa Citizen compiled this collection of perspectives on euthanasia from various religious leaders in Ottawa.
I won’t bother quoting most of them because I’m sure you can imagine what was said. For the most part, there was a lot of talk about “God’s plan,” “Life is sacred,” “Condemn murder,” “Life in relation to God…,” etc. You get the picture.
Regardless of your personal views on euthanasia, whether it is passive or active, the one thing that most religions have in common is the view that your life is not really yours; it belongs to “God.” It is not yours to live as you choose and it is not yours to take, regardless of how much pain and suffering you may be experiencing as you approach inevitable death. As an atheist, I have a serious problem with this viewpoint.
I was pleased to see that this article included a perspective from Kevin Smith, who is on the board of directors for the Centre for Inquiry. He made this statement:
“In our secular society, euthanasia must be a personal decision between the terminally ill and their families, without idle threats of supernatural damnation. It is ethically criminal to toss guilt and shame into a tragic situation.”
In Canada, suicide is legal, yet “counselling, aiding or abetting another person to end their life will result in imprisonment.” I don’t know if I take comfort in the fact that, if I chose to end my life right now, I could do so and not face a prison sentence (which would really impede the whole plan…), but if I were to be faced with a terminal and sufferable disease that prolonged my life in the most painful and dreadful way imaginable, I would be unable to legally seek assistance to make that suffering stop.
I don’t appreciate Smith’s example of Robert Latimer as justification for why the laws should be changed because I don’t believe he was acting out of pure compassion for his disabled daughter when he killed her via carbon monoxide poisoning, but I do agree that something needs to change. Simply legalizing euthanasia could open up many problems and provide opportunities for malice. If the laws were to change, strict parameters and regulations would need to be established.
Various faiths may believe euthanasia is “immoral” and equate it to murder, but I believe it to be immoral to let human beings suffer in agony when they’re begging to be put to rest, telling them that the choice is not theirs to make. Life is precious, but when the time comes, we should have the choice to die with dignity because, after all, it’s our life.