Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 10, 2005
Only God grants death with dignity
Proposed euthanasia law gives licence to kill
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
The first and highest human right is the right to life. This is obvious. It's rather like saying people need air to live.
The right to life is the first and highest right because all other human rights depend upon it. If the right to life is not guaranteed and protected as the first and highest right, then all other human rights can become arbitrary and uncertain.
The right to life is the first right mentioned in America's blazing Declaration of Independence of 1776: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
The right to life
Three years after the Second World War ended - a war that killed 55 million people - the fledgling United Nations made the right to life as the first right in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It borrowed heavily from the American Declaration in its tenor and language. Article 3 of the UN Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person."
Sound familiar? The equality provisions of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) lifted those words directly from the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Whether intentional or inadvertent, each document has the right to life placed first and that's as it should be.
These great declarations refer to the right to life; none mentions a right to death. Death is an eventuality - something that is inevitable. Death will come to every human being, regardless of what any law or legislature declares.
This past June, private member's Bill C-407 was quietly presented to the House of Commons for first reading, by Quebec MP Francine Lalonde, just before parliamentary summer recess. (Most people didn't even notice C-407 because the nation's attention was focused on the same-sex marriage legislation.)
Bill C-407 is officially dubbed "An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity.)" It is a dangerous bill. It is not an act for the right to die with dignity; it is an act for the right to kill the sick and depressed with impunity. The bill proposes to:
A "team of persons entitled to provide health services"? It does not have to be physicians - just persons legally entitled to provide "health services." Health services are provided by nurses, pharmacists, nurses' aides, physiotherapists, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians and laboratory assistants.
The World Health Organization defines health as a "state of complete physical, mental, or social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Social well-being includes a vast array of people not even associated with medical or psychological care, including friends.
The euthanasia bill presently before Parliament is about death. It has nothing do with human dignity.
After 22 years of degenerative multiple sclerosis, I have come to a conclusion: Death with dignity is not an event - it is a process. People do not generally die with any more dignity than they have lived with. Dignity is not injected into somebody's bloodstreams when they are at their lowest point.
Quality of life?
No. Bill C-407, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity), intends to amend the Criminal Code to allow killing off disabled and depressed people. It has nothing to do with human dignity. It confuses the inviolable "dignity of the human person" with "quality of life."
Big mistake! The first is a divine inheritance while the second is a human condition that changes with time. Thirty years ago, I was terrified of becoming disabled and being in a wheelchair. I thought life could not have quality if I was in a wheelchair without the use of my legs. I was healthy and athletic. My standard for quality of life was physical health.
Today at 52, I am disabled. My physical health is gone but my life still has quality. Why? The standard changed. Today, my standard for quality of life is love. Even if I were not loved by anybody, I know I am loved by God. He's the source of human dignity in which I will eventually die. Death with dignity is not bestowed through some private member's bill in Parliament.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.