Life Unworthy of Life?
Recently, a Kelowna radio show host discussed (or more accurately, strenuously advocated for) the effort on the part of the BC Liberties Association to challenge Canada’s legal restrictions on physician assisted suicide (PAS). During his show, he made a comment that was truly unsettling.
After he described those who would qualify as candidates for assisted suicide, a caller mentioned the recently deceased Reverend Albert Baldeo and his long battle with Parkinson’s. In response, the host forthrightly suggested that the beloved Reverend was exempt from being assisted to die because his life was “more special” and he had “more to offer us” than most. Wow. Where to begin?
At the heart of this position lies the notion that some lives are worth preserving while others are not. For those old enough to recall, the idea of “life unworthy of life” was a fundamental tenet of the racial policy of the German Third Reich. Of course, in that instance the events unleashed by the acceptance of the notion that some lives are worth living while others are not was rapid, pernicious, and devastating (Interestingly, among the first to go were those experiencing “incurable suffering,” such as Parkinson’s).
Today, the idea is more subtle, insidiously creeping around in our collective psyche and manifesting itself in issues such as assisted suicide, euthanasia, abortion, IVF and embryonic stem cell research. Legitimate concerns over such things as “quality of life,” suffering, medical costs, individual rights, etc lead many well-intentioned people to consider if and when some lives really are not worth living.
I’m sure the Reverend Baldeo would agree that we are all special; that we all possess equal and immeasurable worth no matter our age, physical condition, contribution to society, or any other consideration. The teachings of the Christian faith make it clear, and Reverend Baldeo was undoubtedly intimately familiar with the Christian faith.
The discussion around PAS usually centers on individual rights. Proponents argue that people have a “right to die” and in the manner they so choose. But is there really such a right? Or is death simply a reality that all of us will experience eventually? I just checked the Charter of Rights, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and the U.S. Constitution for this “right to die.” Maybe I didn't look hard enough, but I didn’t see it anywhere in any of those documents.
Moreover, do we really want to be a society that condones, tolerates, and even encourages the killing of weak and defenseless human beings (Nevermind that the 3,000,000 + unborn babies killed since 1969 in Canada would say that we already are)? Is being purposely injected with a state-approved killing agent while family and friends stand by and watch dying with dignity? Or is being cared for, loved, and respected right up to the end of our natural lives the real dignified death?