I started to write "the Sue Rodriguez case has reminded us all...." and then I realized how wrong that is. It is not the Sue Rodriguez "case"- it is Sue Rodriguez who has reminded us all of our own mortality and our need to think carefully about the kind of society we want to live and to die in. I knew Sue Rodriguez only through the media, heard her speak so eloquently and painfully in support of what she believed in, watched as her strength was sapped by the devastating disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and was moved by her clear thought and her bravery as a person facing death. Here was a woman who acted on her beliefs with courage and tenacity and whose grace has enriched us all. (To learn more about Sue go to http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-69-1135/life_society/sue_rodriguez/)
She challenged us to think about the difference between what our law of the land says and what our people say. Her death, and her life, say to us "think carefully about these matters of life and death for they are not academic and distant but are a necessary part of everyone's existence."
In this paper I want to focus on the controversial and difficult issue of assisted suicide or euthanasia. First some ground clearing and preparation: "euthanasia" means "a gentle and easy death" and has come to mean "the good death of another" or "mercy killing." It is controversial because it brings into focus and conflict some very powerful and competing values. Certainly one of society's traditional attitudes, expressed morally, legally, philosophically, and religiously is that human life merits special protection. In fact, some claim that human life is an absolute value. For them the taking of human life then becomes a wrong even in the case of voluntary euthanasia. And for some this perceived moral wrong should be prohibited by the full force of the law. The clash here is between protection of human life and the right to decisional autonomy, and as well raises the... [continues]
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