14 February, 2014

Bishop Fred Henry (Calgary): Unclear language clouds push for euthanasia

"Many people of my vintage developed in high school a working knowledge of basic Latin grammar, and we read and translated classical texts such as Cicero’s De Oratore.

“Just as some women are said to be handsomer when unadorned — this very lack of ornament becomes them — so the plain style gives pleasure when unembellished ... All noticeable ornament, pearls as it were, will be excluded; not even curling irons will be used. All cosmetics, artificial white and red, will be rejected. Only elegance and neatness will remain. The language will be pure Latin, plain and clear; propriety will always be the chief aim.”

Despite Cicero’s own linguistic elegance, he encouraged speech or writing that was simple, direct, clear, brief, sincere and unambiguous. Cicero would not be pleased with our modern day over-usage and misusage of euphemisms, e.g. “infected obstetrics” (botched abortion), “misstatement” (lie), “program misuse” (fraud), “collateral damage” (civilian death), and “gaming” (gambling).

These usages of language are the opposite of “calling a spade a spade” or simply speaking the truth. They can cover up, mask, soften, smooth over important facts, and lessen responsibility. Euphemisms can be used deceptively and misleadingly to hide the truth. “Spin” is becoming a large part of modern-day life and we can even hire “spin doctors” to aid us in massaging “the truth.”

A classic illustration of such abuse can be seen in the Quebec government’s proposed Bill 52 — An Act Respecting End-of-Life Care.

“End-of-life care” is defined as “palliative care provided to persons at the end of their lives, including terminal palliative sedation, and medical aid in dying.”

This definition changes what is meant by palliative care. The terms “terminal palliative sedation” and “medical aid in dying” are purposefully misleading. They are euphemisms for euthanasia. We need some plain speech.

Euthanasia is the intentional killing of someone, with or without his or her consent, either by act or omission. By killing the person, one seeks to eliminate all aspects of that person’s life including pain, suffering or humiliation of being in need of help. The person who commits euthanasia must intend, for whatever reason, to kill the other and must cause their death."

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Henry: Unclear language clouds push for euthanasia

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