State of the Culture: Compassionate killing and euthanizing religious liberty

By Jonathon Van Maren

In this week’s culture update, we take a look at assisted suicide, euthanasia, and the destruction of religious liberty. These issues are no long abstract. These are issues that, in a very short amount of time, will be impacting you personally.


As the debate surrounding euthanasia, assisted suicide, and giving doctors the right to kill patients in Canada heats up, a rash of schizophrenic columns calling for compassionate killing have been hitting newspapers. It’s bizarre—as I wrote for LifeSiteNews earlier this month, this relentless promotion of suicide as a solution is dangerous and stupid. But finally, the able pen of Andrew Coyne in the National Post has tackled the issue in a brilliant piece titled The Absurd Logic of Assisted Suicide:

Among the many questions left unanswered in the report of the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying, one strikes me as inescapable. When dispatching a patient by lethal injection, would a doctor be obliged to sterilize the needle?

That’s the thing about normalizing suicide. It requires us to set aside all prior assumptions except the most absurd ones. It rushes past all sorts of distinctions that might once have seemed important — between killing yourself and killing someone else, for example — yet clutches wildly at others, as if they were any more likely to withstand the momentum of its logic.

Here is what I imagine most people think assisted suicide — let us call it what it is, rather than the gentler euphemisms — is about. A patient is in the last stages of an incurable disease. Death is a certainty, but not so swift as to spare the patient unbearable torment — if not now, then in future. Suicide seems the only way out…

here are, that is, two very different sorts of rights arguments at work here. There is the conditional, hedged one most people are familiar with. In this, the right comes with certain eligibility tests, rather as you must be of a certain age to drive, or vote, or drink. It is up to the patient to request access to it, and up to society to decide whether to accept his request.

But that is not how advocates see suicide. They see it, rather, as a release from suffering; not as an evil to be prevented, but as a service to be provided (indeed, the panel recommends it be done at public expense). This presents the right to die, not as a limited one, such as the right to drive, but as an unlimited one, inhering in all persons — rather like the right to life. And, it has to be said, it is by far the more coherent of the two arguments.

For if assisted suicide is a right to be released from suffering, how can that be restricted to adults? Are we to condemn children to endless torment, where we would not an adult? Likewise for the mentally incompetent: Are we really so indifferent to their pain as to allow their disability to stand in the way of its alleviation? If they are unable to consent to their own death, should they not be assisted, intellectually, in the same way as those physically unable to kill themselves are to be assisted?

This is not some dire prophecy. It is, as the panel reminds us, the logic of assisted suicide. By making it lawful to euthanize children, we would only be following where Belgium and the Netherlands have led; by applying it to the mentally ill, we would be doing no more than Switzerland has already done.

If that is where we want to go, so be it. But let us at least be clear that that is what is really at stake.

Well said, sir. Well said.


In precisely that vein, Coyne’s predictions are already playing out, as the Post reported that, “Terminally ill children as young as 12 should have euthanasia choice, expert panel urges.

Terminally ill children as young as 12 should be given the option of physician-assisted death, an expert panel advising the provinces says in a report expected to shift the euthanasia debate into a whole new realm.

The nine-member committee argues there should be no “arbitrary age limits” for assisted death, and that eligibility should be based on maturity and mental competence, not age.

So children who are not old enough to vote in an election are considered old enough to ask to be killed?

It’s not just those suffering from terminal illnesses, as was originally claimed, either:

The panel is recommending that if a person is diagnosed with, for example, dementia that he be allowed to make his death wishes known in an advance directive, or living will, before he loses mental competence.

“It seemed to us wrong and against the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling that you would have to be competent at the very instant,” Schafer said.

Oh, and it can apply to those with depression and those with disabilities, too:

The group also offered a definition of “grievous and irremediable,” recommending it be defined as any “very severe” or serious illness that can’t be alleviated by any means acceptable to the person suffering.

Taylor and other panel members rejected suggestions that this means “anything goes.”

The Supreme Court, in Carter vs. Canada, “already said it didn’t have to be a terminal illness; they already said the suffering could be psychological (and) they already said it could be a disability,” she said.

“We heard form stakeholders on both sides who agreed with each other that there shouldn’t be a list of conditions set out — ‘don’t list cancer and don’t list Lou Gehrig’s disease’ — because that list will always change. “What is incurable today might become curable tomorrow, she said. “Everybody said don’t come up with a list, it wouldn’t be workable.”

It sure didn’t take long for that façade to crumble: This is about death as a solution, offered to anyone, irrespective of condition.


It’s crystal clear to those of us keeping an eye on such things that the secular Left does not believe there is any such thing as “religious liberty,” and do not believe that Christian beliefs regarding sexuality should be tolerated, since they are intolerable, and our society should be tolerant. Thus, it’s not surprising that at a recent LGBT conference put on by The Atlantic, not only were there virtually no supporters of religious liberty present, but religious liberty itself was rejected as a valid concept. From The American Conservative:

It fell to Andrew Sullivan (whose voice I miss more and more every week) to defend freedom to the crowd. You really should read the whole Reason report to hear what he had to say. It includes a link to Andrew’s presentation, in which he says that the LGBT-industrial complex needs to keep the bogeyman of Oppression alive (“These people’s lives and careers and incomes depend on the maintenance of discrimination and oppression”), and says that religious liberty is just about the most important American freedom.

The hard truth is that Andrew Sullivan, alas for us all, is irrelevant to the debate now. When I saw him this spring in Boston, he told me that he can’t go on some campuses now because the gay left hates him for speaking out for religious liberty, and in particular for Brendan Eich. Think about that: fewer than four years ago, the president of the United States was formally committed to maintaining traditional marriage in law. Now, we have Court-mandated gay marriage from coast to coast, and Andrew Sullivan, who has done as much or more than any single person to make that happen, is now regarded by the gay rights movement as some sort of reactionary because of his liberal views.

The Law of Merited Impossibility: It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.

The Law of Merited Impossibility—a perfect way to put it. When I watched the documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition some years ago, which detailed the battle over gay marriage in California, a number of interviews with gay activists decrying all of the “slippery slope nonsense” were aired, with one journalist saying that such predictions were “out-and-out lies.” A few years later, and every single one of those predictions have come to pass—and the gay rights movement is more than thrilled about it. The level of deceit is staggering.




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