Topics: Justice | Opinion

Euthanasia is an issue of empathy, not ideology

A Christian critique of current affairs


For many conservative Christians, the prism through which they see their faith is composed of three colourful lenses: sexuality, abortion and euthanasia. The first leads them to oppose gay equality and the full acceptance of LGBTQ people into churches. The second produces an obsession with procreation and an ironclad refusal to grasp the concept of women’s choice. The third means that any form of assisted death must be vehemently contested.

This fervent opposition to euthanasia is rather confusing. Because to the Christian, isn’t death merely a doorway to another and better life? I don’t say this to be flippant. While I love life and try not to contemplate my own demise, my faith assures me that this life on earth is far from the entire story.

What is a big part of the Christian life, however, is how we treat others; to inflict unnecessary suffering on the weak, the sick and the vulnerable is a terrible sin. And let’s make one thing abundantly clear: the alternative to dying with dignity is not living, but dying without dignity. We are speaking here of people who have relatively little time to live. They simply want to avoid spending their remaining days in agony, without any control over their bodies. They want to leave on their own terms and in their own time, surrounded by love and care.

Propaganda has caused great damage around the subject. No sane person wants depressed teenagers to be helped to die; nobody is trying to euthanize the elderly. Statistics from the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for about 15 years, reveal that there is now 85 percent support for it. That level of popular support for almost anything is incredibly rare.

There are those whose bodies are gradually closing down through the ravages of a neurological illness. They know that they will eventually drown internally and likely die in terror. Surely we can empathize with their fears and understand that they are petrified of what will happen when they can no longer communicate.

Or what of the sufferer who is told that death will come within a few months and that the medication soon will no longer cloud the pain? That poor soul should not have to die in agony simply because of an ideology.

True love, genuine love, authentic love sometimes screams for hard and harsh choices. Anybody who believes that euthanasia is an easy subject with facile solutions is sadly misinformed. End-of-life care needs generous funding. We must revere rather than reject the aged, and layers of scrutiny must be applied before anybody is helped by a doctor to end his or her life. But in the final analysis, the right to let go and say goodbye must be that of the individual — not the state, the church, the family or the bully zealot. We are so much better than that.

Michael Coren is an author and journalist in Toronto.


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