There’s an article in the Montreal Gazette yesterday that discusses a couple families that faced different situations with regards to assisted suicide or euthanasia.
The first family became a member smaller when a husband took his life after suffering from multiple sclerosis. The other family dealt for years with a member who wanted to die but after months finally stopped speaking of dying.
Both families were testifying before a dying with dignity panel, which was discussing whether euthanasia should be legalized in Canada. The panel has no legal ability to change the current federal legislation that makes euthanasia illegal.
I think there’s a very strong case for humanists to get behind the fight for the decriminalization/legalization of euthanasia, and it’s something we should start getting vocal for.
Thirty-forty years ago it was humanists, like Henry Morgentaler, who fought hard to decriminalize abortion in Canada. They’re post-religious ethics taught us that a woman’s right to choose is greater than ill-conceived religious notions of the sanctity of a parasitic cluster of cells (not to denigrate parasitic clusters of cells – you and I were one once).
With euthanasia comes the fundamental question of who gets to decide what you do with your body and your life.
While I personally don’t support the right for anyone to walk into a clinic when they feel like to kill themselves (since they may have legal dependents or may be suffering from treatable mental illness), I do think that there is a point when a rational person can decide that dying is a better option than living.
The limits that the first family request for assisted suicide consist of “written demands from a patient and never a doctor, be available only to those suffering from incurable and debilitating illnesses, supported by medical and psychological evaluations, and only after a long delay to rule out other solutions.”
Of course any such framework is subject to debate and revision, but I think that it’s time that we start pushing for such changes, and I think that humanists (and atheists) are in the prime position to fight for these rights and freedoms.