March 07, 2015

Canadian ethicist: Euthanasia is "first degree murder, legalised"

Brian LilleyArchive

At the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa, I talked to renowned ethicist Margaret Somerville about the  Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision in favour of assisted suicide.

Already in Quebec, the "Care at the End of Life" bill will allow doctors to give patients lethal injections, beginning this December.

Somerville explains the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide, then touches on issues like capital punishment and palliative care.

She uses a personal anecdote to illustrate how difficult it can be to obtain adequate end-of-life pain relief, even for someone as well-connected and knowledgeable about the health care system as she is.

Somerville insists that such care would drastically reduce demand for the legalization of assisted suicide and what she calls "first degree murder, legalized" -- euthanasia.

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commented 2015-03-11 20:17:53 -0400
Joan, the needle is a place, not a thing. And while I regret St Peter had character less than stellar he was just a man as his successors have been. But I wouldn’t be too quick to condemn him since he alone holds the keys to heaven granted to him by The Divine Lord himself. The catechism is what Jesus said since it was established by the authority of the bride of Christ. No one in any of the 40,000 denominations since Martin Luther has this authority. On this Rock I will build my church said Jesus. I will destroy this temple and rebuild it in 3days
commented 2015-03-11 09:14:38 -0400
Chris, yes and thanks. I agree suicide is always regrettable. But so often people who do it are not in their right minds. They are so distressed by pain that they don’t think straight. No one not in extreme distress commits suicide. I believe Jesus does not condemn the sick; I believe he heals them, if not in life then in the transition from life to death. I do not believe Jesus abandons the broken or that God abandons his creation. But like you, I don’t know.
commented 2015-03-11 09:08:03 -0400
Peter, is that the eye of a sewing needle or the eye of a darning needle? It makes a difference to the parable meaning and especially to its application to our lives.

The only Christian authority I recognize is Jesus. Not church executive that differ with one another over almost everything and who often have less than stellar character.

We don’t know who is or is not saved. Nor do we get to say. That is up to God.
commented 2015-03-11 08:54:15 -0400
The notion that everyone is saved is heretical. Jesus spoke in parables so only the faithful would understand. Very little of what he said was clear. It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than a rich man to enter heaven. For those who believe no explanation is necessary, for those who don’t believe, no explanation is possible
commented 2015-03-11 00:23:48 -0400
Hey Joan, I personally haven’t found anything specifically from Jesus words either, or the old testament laws against suicide.
What we can do is assume that it is sinfull to do so. There is enough in scripture to assume so, as the act would put man’s own decision making over God’s authority.

Thou salt not murder (Exodus 20:13); we can reasonably conclude that suicide is a form of self murder.
My times are in your hands (Psalm 31:15); God decides when we stay, when we go.
Naked I came, naked I will return: the Lord gives, and the He takes away. (Job 1:21); God is the sovereign over all life.

Is it a sin? Yes. Is it the worst sin? Debatable. That is the best I can come up with. Other than that it is not addressed specifically. Hope that helps :)
commented 2015-03-10 23:58:45 -0400
Peter, what is called heresy? Your post isn’t clear.

Listen, I just discuss generally. I am sure what you did was right. It is a heart-wrenching experience any of us can only do our best with. I’m sure you did yours.

I asked where Jesus condemns suicide. You cited catechism, which is fine, but it doesn’t reflect anything Jesus said.

I didn’t mean to suggest Mussolini will share heaven with you without repenting. But if, between life and death, he saw Jesus and was healed … well, would you not forgive him?
commented 2015-03-10 19:35:34 -0400
Joan A. That is called heresy. I don’t believe this is the forum for this but here goes. I gotta admit u stumped me with your question. I asked this cup be passed from me, thanks for others input more educated than me. All I could find were King Saul and Samson. Both cried for forgiveness so they must have known it was wrong. The catechism says "suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope and faith. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment. I apologize if I implied that all who die this way have no chance. No one knows but God what’s in a persons heart. From personal experience I couldn’t,in good conscience, say pull the plug as he cried in pain. I knew U of A palliative care could ease that. But for someone who served his whole life to end that way would be tragic. I got rules to abide by. The next agenda, is that all men are saved by the grace of God. That puts Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini in the same category as the saints. You think you take your memory? It’s a part of your brain which is a part of your body. When my brother Paul had his cardiac arrest in the waiting room of the hospital, (his words) he stood before a dark gate where his son presented him a snake. His interpretation was the snake represented the unforgiveness he had for his ex wife. When the paramedics revived him he was fighting. Not someone who was at peace. Jesus spoke of hell more than any other subject. We need to reconcile before we pass on
commented 2015-03-10 00:38:19 -0400
Tana Farrell, “If this is not something that fits your belief system, then obviously it is not going to be a choice you would make” is a form of argument that has been hauled out many times before, especially in the abortion debate. Consider the response to such an argument provided by none less than a pro-life atheist that pointed out the weakness and fallacy of such logic: “That is a great logical process. You just changed my mind; I think I’ll apply that to the rest of my philosophy and change my opinions about everything else too. If you don’t like slavery, then don’t enslave anyone. If you don’t like rape, then don’t rape anyone. If you don’t like murder, then don’t murder anyone.”
Reduces the assisted suicide debate to one of mere preferences, likes and dislikes. With respect to “My belief system in no way impacts yours, and I do not try to impose mine on you”. Really, no imposition going on? Today, an article from LifeSite News entitled, “Canadian doctors don’t want to kill? TOUGH!” Some excerpts: “Until recently, physicians who did not want to participate in these human life-ending practices–abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide–were allowed space to practice Hippocratic medicine regardless of the legal status of these killing procedures…But about a doctor’s right of conscience to refuse participation in killing activities? They will be forced!…Provincial medical associations in Canada are lining up against permitting doctors a moral or religions conscience right to opt out of killing…We are coming to a time when the only people who can become doctors will be those willing to kill. How frightening is that?” What happened to the notion of not imposing one’s belief system on another’s belief system? This provision to allow assisted-suicide would be granted and enforced by government fiat. I am not a medical doctor, but I am a taxpayer who would be forced to financially support something that I regard as morally wrong in disrespecting the sanctity of life.
commented 2015-03-10 00:04:08 -0400
Chris, I have long entertained the fancy that at the moment of death, when the unrepentent sinners see Jesus, the sheer beauty of his goodness convinces them to repent and they are saved. And that in the end, the very end, Satan too repents and chooses freely to ally his will with God’s.

Paradise Lost. The Passion Play. Paradise Regained.
commented 2015-03-09 23:19:16 -0400
Hey Tana,
Yes I do appreciate yours, and I think this is what the courts are trying to juggle with. The key principle that is at play here is: free will.
In the first book, Genesis, we have the story of Adam and Eve and their fall. God commanded them to not eat the fruit, but He left them in the environment necessary for them to choose to do anyway if they wanted to. They did, and it led to consequences.
In the role that Judas Iscariot plays, after he betrays Jesus, he commits suicide. He must have known he would do it, and Judas must have known it was wrong, but He let him do it anyway.

God honors free will. That’s why it is embedded in us humans. Christians, and whoever hold a Judeo-Christian world view, will however always be adamantly opposed to this because God is opposed to this; our hearts are modeled after His. But as He honors free will, so must we remember to as well. We are not a theocracy, but a democracy. Our beliefs cannot be imposed by force, only conveyed peacefully through grace, love, compassion, and mercy and therefore accepted willingly. That is what Jesus wanted; what God has always wanted.

There is a problem though: the afterlife. If, and this is a big if, there is indeed an afterlife (Christians and the like absolutely believe there is), and this first life is indeed a testing or a proving ground in a way, and the person in question did not believe and rejected God and did whatever he/she wanted, they are in big big trouble. Of course this is not what He wants; nor do we. But He will honor the decision.

C.S. Lewis wrote:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”
commented 2015-03-09 16:55:21 -0400
Hi Chris. I appreciate your perspective – and hope that you also appreciate mine. That being – for those who do not see life/death in the same context – do not agree that this life (and death) is God’s will, nor accept that He has dominion over everything and everyone and so on also have strong commitment and vested interest in this judgement allowing for assisted suicide. My belief system in no way impacts yours, and I do not try to impose mine on you. I believe that we all have choice in what we believe. When/if the time comes that it is unbearable to remain in this body due to unendurable pain – I am grateful that this is now a legal option available to me. If this is not something that fits your belief system, then obviously it is not going to be a choice you would make.
commented 2015-03-09 14:31:06 -0400
Hey Tana, truth is no one will be able to answer this one perfectly to fit every situaution. The best we can do is offer a perspective. Here goes:

God’s will is that no one suffer and/or die, but the inevitable reality is that we all will; in some way or another. All He can do is give His unrelenting grace for us to endure.

As for reward: Jesus endured the worst kind of torture, abuse, and execution possible: crucifixion. That is where the root word for excruciating comes from. And that is why God exhalted Him and gave Him dominion over everything and everyone; that at His name every tongue shall confess and every knee shall bow to His lordship.

Having said that, if the person in question is a professing Christian, that means Jesus is lord and master over his/her life. They do not get to choose how they live or die. Their master decides.

Hope that helps.
commented 2015-03-09 13:45:48 -0400
I have to, respectfully, disagree with Julie and Daniel. Why must we have to “trust that our reward will be in heaven for enduring such suffering?” Are saying that the more horrible, torturous, and pain-filled your life is on earth – the better your eternity will be? Are you then actively seeking a life filled with the worst pain and suffering you can find to endure so that you can have a better eternity filled with “extra graces waiting for (you) in heaven?” Nobody is suggesting that anyone has the right, or desire, to randomly kill the weak and the innocent, the deformed or the mentally deficient. Not at all. As a consenting adult who is at a stage in their life where they no longer wish to continue to suffer unendurable pain – where there is no chance of lessening the suffering or of any positive outcome – I believe it is between them and their own beliefs, their own God or whatever, to decide to end the suffering in a way that brings them, and them alone, peace.
commented 2015-03-09 11:51:15 -0400
I stand with Julie on this. Beside someone wrote about U N and reduction of the world population , plan parenthood stood for euthanasia " death to the weeds ". I believe that the U N expect people to willingly eliminate themselves base on this issue so like pilate they can wash their hands. Another thing , "death to the weeds "was based also on a economic reason ,cut the social financial cost for taking care of the needy , creeples , the poors and mentally deficient. Finally Malthus philosophy too many people will create a shortage in the food supply which is produce. Prof Kai Nielsen said that by only rational reasoning men cannot come naturally to a moral Ethos . God is God we are not.
commented 2015-03-09 04:22:11 -0400
Ending your life before it’s natural end means deviating from the divine plan. Yes suffering can be excruciating and unbearable but we have to trust that our reward will be in heaven for enduring such suffering. I don’t think anyone who may be contemplating ending their life, when they reach out to God in prayer to know His will on the matter, receives an answer back to go ahead and kill themselves. He is not a foolish God who gives suffering with no purpose or reason. But He promises us that those who endure great suffering have extra graces waiting for them in heaven. After all what is our short lifetime here on earth compared to an enternity in heaven. It would be a shame to spend that eternity regretting the decisions we made here on earth.
commented 2015-03-09 00:00:04 -0400
I sure hope so. The authority I rely on never mentions the words " nice" or " feelings"
commented 2015-03-08 23:33:00 -0400
Listen, Peter, I know what happened to Judas but didn’t his sin originate not in suicide but in betrayal? Wasn’t suicide a consequence of his sin and not the sin itself?

Come on. Where does Jesus condemn suicide? Or at least give me a cogent Biblical argument if that is the authority you rely on to condemn the decision of those individuals who commit suicide.

You know, some will argue that in those hazy moments on the edge of death, Jesus appears to them and assures them it is okay for them to hasten into his arms from pain that might otherwise make them beg to the dark one for relief. Jesus is merciful, no?
commented 2015-03-08 22:30:26 -0400
Joan, that’s not even close. By the way, what happened to him? You’re going to have to look it up yourself. Start with the 6th
commented 2015-03-08 22:02:01 -0400
Peter, that’s not an explicit condemnation of suicide. It is specifically about sexual immorality and the duty to flee it. Can you cite New Testament that explicitly addresses suicide? The only reference I am aware of is to Judas hanging himself.
commented 2015-03-08 19:27:49 -0400
commented 2015-03-08 18:34:28 -0400
Ron Voss. I was referring to suicide. What is the New Testament scripture that forbids suicide?
commented 2015-03-08 14:20:35 -0400
For those who believe that assisted suicide is a mortal sin and/or that " If you die in that state you have no chance of salvation" – there is nothing in this ruling requiring you to do so. You are not being forced in any way whatsoever to participate, or be part of this decision. There are those of different beliefs, such as me, who are very relieved to have this judgement – and just as I do not judge you for your beliefs, I would expect you not to judge mine. It is not your place to do so. Watching someone you love in so much pain that they are begging and pleading for the end of their life and doing nothing to relieve their suffering is, in my opinion, a cruel and inhumane reaction. Yes, pain lets you know you’re alive – you need only ask a young person who cuts themselves – who are trying to feel something, anything, rather than the nothingness that they live with emotionally. That pain is real and grounds them. Suffering – yes we all suffer in life in different ways and to take away that part of human existence would be to take away part of what makes us human. But to stand back and watch someone suffer in unspeakable pain, or to “have no part of it” is not human. Truly – only those who have endured the ending of life in a traumatic or excruciatingly painful manner can speak to the necessity for such a choice. How many of them must beg for an end before we finally become human enough to make it available? If it comes to that for me – I chose to die with the dignity of not having to beg for the end.
commented 2015-03-08 11:59:00 -0400
The United Nations has tried many programs to reduce world population (see Agenda 21) – and this is the “latest” push to achieve that objective. Socially engineer the populations of the world to believe that “assisted suicide”, “dying with dignity” or whatever euphemism one chooses to tag on this is “the way to go”. Make us believe that this is what WE want; that We give our informed consent to, etc. Rationalize it, sugar-coat it, obfuscate it; do whatever is necessary to “sell it” to the population. As one commenter stated below – what better way of reducing the costs of caring for an aging population than convincing the “aged” that this is for “their own good.”
Read this if you think I am making this up: “President Obama’s Science Adviser John Holdren wrote a book in 1977 called Ecoscience in which he indicated support for forced abortions, sterilization through infertility drugs or through the nation’s drinking water or food, having babies seized from single mothers or teen mothers and given away to couples, requiring that “people who contribute to social deterioration…be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility” (i.e. more forced abortions or sterilizations), and creating a transnational “Planetary Regime” that controls the global economy and dictates the details of American lives by use of an armed international police force.”
There is real cause for concern when the Supreme Court of a country strikes down a law prohibiting “assisted suicide”, especially when demographics show a country is facing economic stress from an aging population.
P.S. Is this not the “Year of the Sheep”?
commented 2015-03-08 11:04:41 -0400
Joan Abernethy, re “I guess I think God gave us free will so we could choose our own fate, not so others would use our frailty to deny us that right”.
Instead of guessing what you think God thinks on this matter, I would suggest you let God speak for Himself: “You shall not murder.” – Exodus 20:13
commented 2015-03-07 23:23:15 -0500
Mark, without a point of reference from which to derive, anything can be redefined.

I am paraphrasing here, and I can’t come up with the name or source, but I believe it was an atheist philosopher that stated:
Pure unbridled reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not lead you to morality. To a distinction between what is right, and what is wrong.
commented 2015-03-07 22:47:36 -0500
Peter, I guess I think God gave us free will so we could choose our own fate, not so others would use our frailty to deny us that right.

It’s a tough one. I guess I think Jesus would forgive those who suicide, so out of their minds with pain they are, and would intercede on their behalf if need be.

I don’t think Jesus would so easily forgive the doctor who bills provincial health ministries as many lethal injections as he is allowed under a quota system, based on his calculation of how many murders he must perform each month to pay his mortgage.

But maybe I’m wrong. (-:
commented 2015-03-07 20:31:34 -0500
Pain is just a way of your body telling you you’re still alive
commented 2015-03-07 20:26:28 -0500
Oh I know what pain is. Suffering is part of life and so is death. Live and let live. Not a Hollywood title of a James Bond film
commented 2015-03-07 20:17:11 -0500
When you dont really know what pain is, that you’re in good shape, and surrounded with the ones you love, it’s «normal» to be against assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Please, live and let die. Respect.
commented 2015-03-07 19:41:04 -0500
From what I’ve learned, suicide in any form is a mortal sin. If you die in that state you have no chance of salvation. I recently watched my father in-law die of cancer and double pneumonia. Although he was pleading to end his life I would have no part of it. The next day his wife was praying the rosary by his side and has she finished the last decade he gasped his last breath. Rest in peace Papa. I wish everyone the same right