Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Why Not?

This is the second post in our series on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Come see Alex Schadenberg speak at UofT tomorrow at 6pm in the SMC Senior Common Room for the highlight event.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family has released a downloadable PDF booklet: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Why Not? As the Catholic Register explains, “the booklet lists 12 common arguments in the pro-euthanasia mindset, then sets out to obliterate them with concise, bullet-like points based on natural law.”

The arguments seem fairly focused on reason — non-Catholics should be encouraged to read it as well.

The booklet is free to copy and distribute, so I’m going to dive into each of the arguments over the next few weeks, beyond the scope of this week’s series. Today, we’ll start with the introduction:

According to some surveys, three-quarters of Canadians would favour the legalization of euthanasia. Above all, they fear one day becoming a burden and having their lives unduly prolonged in suffering.

Given the immense confusion surrounding euthanasia, it is reasonable to question these statistics and some unreliable surveys. It is more than likely that the majority of citizens would change their minds if they were properly informed.

However, a very effective lobby is manipulating words and emotions in order to promote euthanasia and assisted suicide. For example, some erroneously use the phrase “passive euthanasia” to describe the withdrawal of futile medical treatment.

The need to dispel confusion by returning words to their true meaning has become
urgent. It is also important to recognize euphemisms for “euthanasia” and “assisted suicide”: voluntary interruption of life… active aide in dying… hastened death… physician assisted death…

To begin with, it is important to clarify the distinction between euthanasia and the refusal of aggressive treatment (see Quick Answer no. 3). When death is imminent and inevitable, it is perfectly legitimate to refuse medical procedures which are disproportionate to the desired results or too burdensome for the patient and his or her family.

But what is euthanasia? Euthanasia is the intentional killing of someone, with or without his or her consent, either by act or omission. By killing the person, one seeks to eliminate all aspects of that person’s life including the pain, suffering or humiliation of being in need of help. The person who commits euthanasia must intend, for whatever reason, to kill the other and must cause his or her death.

In the case of assisted suicide, a person kills himself or herself with the help of another person who provides him or her with the means to carry out the act.


The “quick answers” presented here provide appropriate responses to common
arguments put forward by proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Check out the booklet [PDF] or stay tuned to our blog!

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