Two Visions of Life

A recent article in the National Post attracted my attention earlier this week, and its been on my mind ever since. Professor John Zucchi excellently presents what I think is a remarklably innovative yet most effective outlook on the Euthanasia debate. Whenever the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia has entered into dialogue, at least from personal experience, there seems to be an immediate desire to politicize the issue – not to say that the point in question is not already ever-present in our courts as well as Parliament for that matter (The recently unsuccessful Bill C-384 is testament to this). The point is, euthanasia, first and foremost, is a human question. As much as the discussions may revolve around the rights of medical practicioners alongside the usual ‘choice’ argument that the ability to have one’s self killed, is in itself a human right, this is not the point. Bill C-384 did not get defeated solely because the majority of Canadian representation is pro-life on this issue; it was bad law. Deeper than the case studies that have landmarked Canada’s legal history throughout the past few decades, we have forgotten, in the heat of this discussion, what is at stake. It’s important to remember that assisted suicide is not simply about whether or not the state can impede on the rights of the individual, likewise, no matter how difficult a decision euthanasia poses on each and every one of us, so often the matter is turned into a conversation of sentiments. So where are we to go from here?

September marks the beginning of numerous public hearings that are happening all across the province of Quebec. Canadians are, for the first time in 17 years, looking in with anticipation at the conclusions that will be reached throughout this highly publicized public forum. describes the wide-scale attention and implications that are being brought to the table of this debate:

The Quebec government agreed late last year to establish the commission to seek public and expert opinion on the issue in response to a motion filed by three members of the province’s Parti Quebecois (PQ), including leader Pauline Marois (Charlevoix), who asked Premier Jean Charest to establish such a commission.

Although euthanasia and assisted suicide are prohibited under the federal criminal code, the Quebec government could effectively legalize both forms of medical killing by directing provincial Crown prosecutors not to lay charges against doctors who end the lives of the terminally ill, elderly or profoundly disabled.

What is blatently evident from this article is the fact that this is, without a doubt, a public issue, moreso than most bioethical issues in fact, namely because we will all one day die. Euthanasia involves everyone; like it or not.

But this is the fundamental point. We cannot speak about the issue of euthanasia without talking about the human person. Professor Zucchi makes this absolutely clear. There cannot solely be discussion about the legislative provisions/restrictions regarding the legal practice of euthanasia in Canada. What is definite by the public cry in Quebec and the widespread publicity which has captured the attention of so many of us nationwide, is the recognition, that at a much deeper level, euthanasia demands of us to verify, what Zucchi calls, one of “two visions of life”:

This is the choice we are making on the question of euthanasia. It is about much more than asserting the right to time our own death. There is something more sacrosanct than rights, and that is life itself and the hope that sustains it. Our choice is between hopelessness and hope, between despair and another way of looking at life, where we are not masters of our own destinies but rather human beings who uphold our fellow human beings, and are willing to be accompanied by others. It is about solidarity, affirming the good life and therefore not being afraid to face a good death.

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