By Jonah Kondro
It was in November of last year that I attended a lecture, When Doctors Help Us Die: The Canadian Debate, at Burman University. The notes I made from that evening were misplaced in a binder I use for my Philosophy class. I was in RDC’s librar yand fumbling around on some counter space. Ironically, I found the binder with my notes on the assisted suicide lecture on top of a stack of Mental Health Resource pamphlets.
Don Carmichael and David Goa were the two speakers that took an audience through a discussion of the “legal quandary that is about to test the political wisdom and moral conscience of a nation.” Respectively they are professors of political philosophy and theology from the University of Alberta. This wasn’t some rally against assisted suicide in a church basement. The lecture proceeded with utmost regard for the secular masses.
Carmichael was first to speak. He reminded the audience that Canada is comprised of many different classes, groups, and individuals; and that all Canadians share the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was also pointed out by Carmichael that “religious authority is not accepted by everyone.” And neither is atheism. From Carmichael’s portion of the lecture, I derived two boiled down reasons an individual may desire access to assisted suicide: is it right for me and is it required for others.
I feel that that question has to be answered by the individual.
David Goa occupied most of the time that was consumed within the lecture hall. Even with his background in theology, he was nice enough not to start throwing the Bible around. There were three points he brought up regarding some pending societal consequences of assisted suicide: it could act as a lever towards commercialization of services and private healthcare; it could usher in capital punishment; and it could slowly grow the obligation to end your life. Granted, some of Goa’s arguments fall under the slippery slope category of fallacy, but I found all his points were worthy to consider.
Society likes to normalize things: abortion, UFC knockouts, cannabis, and assisted suicide. If society makes things normal, then individuals don’t have to feel as bad when confronted with the difficult scenarios in life. If you had an unsafe weekend,that’s okay, here is an abortion. Need something to do? Watch this human inflict brain damage onto another human (and don’t forget to ask Vegas about the odds). Are you feeling anxiety and stress like everyone else? Here is a narcotic to calm yourself down. If don’t like withering away in a hospital bed, here is a hypodermic needle.
David Goa said it best during the lecture at Burman: we have a habit of looking for a technical solution in our society. And I agree with him. We all seek solutions towards the normalization of tricky/touchy subjects and to make things okay.
However, death is normal. We don’t need to be splicing intravenous solutions into the arms of our dying grandparents, our cancerous parents, our sick siblings, or our tumorous children. Physician-assisted suicide speaks loudly to what the collective conscience of Canadians is.