Society has been free-falling into a new age of so-called “dignified death,” including euthanasia for children, the innovation of suicide pods and implants, and assisted suicide for both non-terminal and healthy individuals. While assisted suicide and euthanasia still rightfully remain largely illegal around the world, the movement to legalize the killing of vulnerable people is becoming louder, more frequent, and more accepted. But killing innocent human beings can never be morally good.
Killing is immoral
Once a person comes into existence at the moment of fertilization, he or she is always a person. Abortion proponents argue that even if a human fetus is a human being, it’s not a “person,” and therefore, abortion is acceptable. Likewise, euthanasia proponents argue that bodily life is different from personhood. They believe that bodily life is simply biological, while personhood is the ability to communicate, make judgments, and reason. By these definitions, a person can cease to be a person if they lose their ability to carry out those acts. This is a fallacy.
Personhood isn’t based on an individual’s level of abilities, talents, or method of communication, just as it isn’t dependent on a person’s race, nationality, or religion. Personhood is based only on the fact that the person exists. Nothing could become a person that wasn’t already a person from the first moment of its creation, and a person can’t suddenly become something other than a person. As Saint Pope John Paul II explained in his 2004 address to the International Congress, “A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal.'”
Killing innocent human beings is immoral and illegal. This doesn’t — or shouldn’t — change because a person becomes terminally ill, chronically ill, or disabled. It shouldn’t change because a person has become depressed, or feels as though they have become a burden. This person is still a person. Nothing has changed morally, yet killing these vulnerable human beings has been legalized in some countries and some U.S. states. He or she is still a person — and therefore worthy of life and owed protection under the law — regardless of capabilities. Because he or she is alive, no one has the right to kill them. If a young, healthy person threatens suicide, society does everything it can to convince that person that life is still worth living. Yet if it’s an elderly, chronically ill, or disabled person, then suddenly, suicide becomes a “dignified” right that must be accommodated.
A right to die becomes a duty to kill
Because pro-death organizations and individuals believe there is a right to die, they have convinced themselves that to not kill someone is to dishonor them and strip them of their freedom. Euthanasia proponents argue, therefore, that choosing not to fulfill a person’s request to die is to disrespect that person’s integrity and autonomy. This creates the false belief that there is a duty to kill the person, so that even if a disabled or ill individual is incapable of expressing a wish to die — such as children — we must do them the favor of killing them. This warped belief turns euthanasia into a duty, an obligation, and a right that euthanasia enthusiasts believe must be protected by law.
Yet to kill an innocent human being by any method and for any reason is always an act of injustice, and giving free and informed consent can not make immoral acts moral. Legality does not equal morality.
READ: New report shows negative impacts of euthanasia on palliative care in Canada
There is zero obligation for one person to kill another. No doctor, son, daughter, or spouse has the duty to kill someone simply because they were asked to, and they should not be pressured into doing so. Just because a person says they want to be put to death doesn’t mean the government has to pass a law that allows them to be killed.
The real reasons people “choose” euthanasia
Euthanasia advocates believe that people who are disabled or ill should be able to freely choose to die when they want to through assisted suicide or euthanasia, and that laws should be passed to support that so-called right. Their entire argument is based on freedom of choice. The glaring issue here is that the desire to die isn’t the reason most people choose euthanasia.
Data from Oregon shows that people who choose assisted suicide frequently do so because of a “loss of autonomy,” not because of a desire for a peaceful death or the avoidance of suffering. Assisted suicide and euthanasia aren’t actually peaceful, anyway. Multiple studies, including those published in prestigious medical journals, have revealed that people seek assisted suicide because they are depressed, hopeless, have no support, and are afraid of being a burden. When faced with illness, aging, and the need for assistance, a continued questioning about whether you want to die could feel a lot like being pressured to die. Add to that the legalization of euthanasia by the government, and dying by choice suddenly appears as a good, as a right that the government has handed down, and as a way to feel like less of a burden on your family.
Human beings have a moral obligation to care for one another. It’s what compels people to run into burning buildings to save strangers or attend to a lost, crying child. We hold those individuals up as heroes. We do not do the same when someone kills someone else, and that should not change because the victim may have expressed a wish to die. Every person deserves to be cared for — body and soul — until their final, natural breath.
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