Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Right to Die is not the right to kill yourself - #ProLife message by Fr. Hans Feichtinger


The right to die is not the right to kill yourself

In Canada and beyond, for public and political debates on euthanasia and suicide assistance, one of the crucial question is this: Is letting someone die the same as killing someone? Is dying the same thing as committing suicide? Some people arguing in favour of legalizing assisted suicide say it is. What does your experience tell you? Based on my work as pastor, who meets dying people and people who have lost loved ones on a regular basis, I say there is a huge difference. The difference is: in order for us to have the right to die non one needs a right to kill him/herself, or others, quite the opposite.
Is killing someone in a hit-and-run the same thing as letting someone die because you saw her lying in the street? Both times someone dies, and it is your fault; both are mortal sins and crimes, but they are not the same, and you are not “causal agents in death” in the same sense. Moreover, common sense, legal practice, and ethical reflection demonstrate: If a principle works in scenario A, it does not necessarily work (as well) in B. If two causes lead to, or contribute to the same outcome, that does not mean the two causes are of the same nature, gravity, or meaning. Extending arguments in this way appears more rational than it actually is. Whether something is morally and legally, allowed or desirable depends heavily on the kind of acts you are contemplating and on the circumstances in which the acts are situated.
Withholding medical treatment from people for whom it would be unreasonable and overly burdensome, is not the same thing as administering them a lethal injection. In any case, claiming that it is the same, is only one view, based on one school of thought, most often utilitarianism. If you have ever worked in a department of philosophy, you know that philosophers never agree, either on the conditions, or the method, or the outcome of their reflections. In Carter v Canada, the Supreme Court claimed that there is “no ethical distinction between physician-assisted death and other end-of-life practices whose outcome is highly likely to be death”. Such a claim is one-sided, and the Court should not have limited Parliament’s decision so severely. Not even Parliament could impose one of the many philosophical standpoints on all Canadians.
The parliament of France, arguably the one that invented secularism, has quite different views on suicide assistance. The same is true for Westminster’s Lords and Commons, and for the Bundestag in Berlin. It certainly does not seem plausible to claim that the laws of other profoundly secular and democratic societies are the product of an inability to think properly. Interesting, how thinkers opposing absolute distinctions can become absolutist.
Many people want to be able to end their lives. This is a fact, but not necessarily therefore a “right”, with all the consequences that the concept of a “right” entails, namely that others have an obligation to help me exercise it, and that the state must guarantee it. Legislation has to take into account other aspects and consequences, notably the protection of vulnerable people and the rights of those who have fundamental objections to suicide. Declaring that these thoughts are not rational is unacceptable in a liberal democracy. Citizens of liberal democracies have the right to resist laws based on exclusionary philosophies, even if a Supreme Court embraces them.
Unbearable suffering, tragic and traumatic situations in which people see no solution other than killing themselves, are facts that cannot be explained away. Therefore, not treating (attempted) suicide as a crime makes sense. But it doesn’t make suicide into something good, to which we have a right: that is the fundamental flaw in the debate. The law Canada needs cannot be something that includes so many aspects running contrary to convictions held by so many doctors and people, religious and not. On this issue, philosophical and legal debate will not result in consensus. Parliament, therefore, needs to find a way that does not impose the view of one group on everyone. Legislative power needs to be exercised judiciously, avoiding extreme and exclusionary solutions. If Parliament wants to decriminalize suicide assistance or formally allow it (under certain conditions), that is one thing. A right-to-assisted-suicide, however, is something different: it would force all (publically funded) medical professionals and institutions to offer it as a public service. Such a solution will be pernicious for how we look at people who need palliative (long term, and expensive) care. No person who respects fact-based decisions can deny that. It is not too late to avert such a situation for Canada. Instead, the debate is only just beginning. Special to Catholic News World by :
Msgr. Hans Feichtinger
Fr. Hans Feichtiner born in Germany, obtained a Doctorate in Patristic Theology from the Augustinianum in Rome and an M.A. in Classics from Dalhousie University, Halifax NS. He was an Official at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Beginning 2010, He did the qualifying exams and coursework for a doctorate in philosophy from the Jesuit Philosophy Faculty in Munich. Since coming to Canada at the beginning of 2013, I have been working on the thesis in the library of St Paul University.He is Pastor (Parish Administrator) of St George’s in Ottawa, Canada

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