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Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Why Not?

A ccording to some surveys, three-quarters of Canadians would favour the legalizationof euthanasia. Above all, they fear one day becoming a burden and having their lives unduly prolonged in suffering.

Given the immense confusion surrounding euthanasia, it is reasonable to question these statistics and some unreliable surveys. It is more than likely that the majority of citizenswould change their minds if they were properly informed.

However, a very effective lobby is manipulating words and emotions in order to promote euthanasia and assisted suicide. For example, some erroneously use the phrase “passive euthanasia” to describe the withdrawal of futile medical treatment.

The need to dispel confusion by returning words to their true meaning has become urgent. It is also important to recognize euphemisms for “euthanasia” and “assisted suicide”: voluntary interruption of life… active aide in dying… hastened death… physician assisted death…

To begin with, it is important to clarify the distinction between euthanasia and the refusal of aggressive treatment (see Quick Answer no. 3). When death is imminent and inevitable, it is perfectly legitimate to refuse medical procedures which are disproportionate to the desired results or too burdensome for the patient and his or her family.

But what is euthanasia? 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 the 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 his or her death.

In the case of assisted suicide, a person kills himself or herself with the help of another person who provides him or her with the means to carry out the act.

As we discuss these topics, we cannot limit ourselves to abstract principles and laws. We have to be aware that this is literally a question of life and death. If we are attentive to the natural law – a law embedded in the conscience of every human being, which commands us to protect life and not to kill – we will understand the need to reject euthanasia and assisted suicide as symptoms of the ideology of death. This is the only reasonable choice we can make as a society if we are to build our future on a culture of life and uphold a truly humane civilization in our country.

This shared responsibility requires each of us to present a vision of respect for human life and dignity in a largely secularized public arena. We need to speak up with conviction, founding our reasoning on natural arguments. Together, we must build a social barrier against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The “quick answers” presented here provide appropriate responses to common arguments put forward by proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide. In conclusion, a Christian perspective on the delicate issues of suffering and death will help those who wish to better understand the unalterable dignity of the human person.


download a PDF copy of this excellent booklet from the COLF (Catholic Organization for Family Life) at the following website:

http://www.colf.ca/mamboshop/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=200&Itemid=209

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