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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Canadian Resurgence of Interest in Euthanasia

Euthanasia is back on the agenda in Canada. The first hour of debate on a “euthanasia bill”, Bill C-384, has already taken place in Parliament and a second hour is scheduled for November 16.

As a “private member’s bill”, it is limited to two hours of debate and is expected to go to a second reading vote on November 18. If passed, it would be referred to committee for detailed discussion. There has been an increasing mobilization of opposition to this bill which, if enacted, would allow euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. This opposition ranges from the Canadian Medical Association distributing a letter opposing the bill to members of Parliament, to Steve Passmore, a person with a disability, protesting it on Parliament Hill during the debate. His message is that Bill C-384 threatens his life and the life of people with disabilities.

So, why now are we considering legalizing euthanasia (a term I use here to include assisted suicide) when we have prohibited it for millennia? Not one of the bottom-line conditions usually linked with calls for legalizing euthanasia – that a person is terminally ill, wants to die and we can kill them – is new. These factors have been part of the human condition for as long as humans have existed. And our capacity to relieve pain and suffering has improved remarkably. So, is some other cause the main one? I suggest it’s profound changes in our post-modern, secular, Western, democratic societies, and their interactive and cumulative effects. To make wise decisions about whether or not to legalize euthanasia, we need to identify and understand these changes in relation to euthanasia.

Read the full article here. Definitely worth reading! Margaret Somerville lists and elaborates these changes:

Intense individualism
Mass media
Denial and control of death, and “death talk"
Fear
Legalism
Materialism and consumerism
What it means to be human
Impact of Scientific advances
Competing world views

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