Advance View: Dignity needed in end debate

The euthanasia debate has been gathering intensity again of late.

Most of the debate centres on a black-and-white issue: should people have the right to die when they want to, or should they be required to struggle for as much lifetime as they can squeeze out of their existence?

On one end of the debate are those who claim the ownership of their selves means having a choice of when to call it quits, while at the other end are those who fear – and with some justification – that the choice may be taken out of their hands.

The shades of grey between are overwhelming.

After all, if there weren’t so much grey area between the pole positions, a decision would be relatively easy to reach.

One shade that can be dispensed with has to do with the definition of terms.

Once they understand the difference, most people who favour “death with dignity” will take “euthanasia” off the table, and instead start from a position of “assisted suicide.”

It is of utmost importance that the very terms of reference stick to personal choices, otherwise we risk stepping onto a slippery slope in which there is a danger that “quality of life” might eventually be assessed on a societal, rather than personal scale, and medical costs can be valued against an arbitrary determination of how much suffering an individual should be “forced” to endure in a society that supports universal health care.

We don’t want to end up in a place where “your” suffering is deemed to be not worth “my” health care premiums – however well intentioned such evaluations may be.

On the flip side, it’s hard to understand why someone who sees only a future filled with unbearable suffering should be forced to endure at society’s expense – providing that individual, and not someone else, truly wishes to initiate the end of suffering, with dignity.

And without coercion.

– B.G.

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