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09/12/2017

Reflections on Euthanasia in Canada

A couple of recent pieces from First Things and Public Discourse reflect on Canada’s dismal situation regarding euthanasia.

After recounting the story of a Canadian man from whom basic treatment was nonvoluntarily withheld, George Weigel maintains in First Things that the church has a duty to “to warm chilled souls and rebuild a civil society committed to human dignity.”  He reminds readers that this dignity is foundational to Western democracy, and that to “reduce a human being to an object whose value is measured by ‘utility’ is to destroy one of the building blocks of the democratic order.”

Arthur Goldberg and Shimon Cowen comment on the Canadian situation from a Jewish perspective in their Public Discourse essay titled “The Contagion of Euthanasia and the Corruption of Compassion.”  Regarding euthanasia they write, “A strong element in contemporary secularism sees human life as the personal property of its person. When suffering renders life burdensome to self or others, it can and may be disposed of; this is, for such secularists, the ‘compassionate’ thing to do. But—as Canadians and others have by now found, again and again—the contagion of assisted suicide, once the command ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is set aside, quickly spreads elsewhere.”  From there, they examine the directions in which the disregard for human life – “the ‘contagion’ of killing” – spreads out from the embracing of euthanasia.

The situation in Canada should be a warning for those of us in the United States who care about human dignity and societal flourishing. The above reflections are indicative of the important role the Judeo-Christian tradition has in defending against a culture of death.

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