Human Exceptionalism

Why Isn’t This Just “Aid in Dying” Too?

A Canadian man is under arrest for assisted suicide in the death of his wife. She had no apparent illness. The couple were apparently suffering from very hard economic times, but precise details are not yet known. From the story:

A 46-year-old Waterloo, Ont., man is scheduled to appear in provincial court Tuesday to face an assisted suicide charge after police found the body of his wife in a Thunder Bay motel Friday.

Peter Bernard Fonteece has also been charged with criminal negligence causing death after his wife Yanisa Fonteece, 38, was found dead in a room at the motel shortly after 6 a.m. Peter Fonteece called 911, police said. Thunder Bay police released the name of the couple after it failed to locate Yanisa Fonteece’s next of kin. The couple was unemployed and travelling west, possibly to B.C., when their car broke down in Thunder Bay, police said in a statement.

Let’s assume for the moment–to illustrate what is happening in our culture, not to prejudge this case–that Yanisa was just sick of living because of hard times and asked her husband to help her die: If it would be okay for him to do the deed if, say, she had ALS, why not in this hypothetical situation, too? After all, isn’t the “right to die” about a purported sacrosanct liberty to determine the time, manner, and place of one’s own death? Once that principle is accepted, the details become minutia, because one person’s bearable difficulty is another’s unbearable suffering.

The blah-blah-blah non statement about the situation by a Canadian assisted suicide affectionado would sure seem to point in that direction:

Martin Frith, a spokesman for Dying with Dignity, a group lobbying for law reform, said it is difficult to gage the number of assisted suicides in Canada each year since they happen “below the radar” because of fear of criminal proceedings. “It’s really problematic that in the absence of a law that would actually allow for assisted dying we have situations where well intentioned family members who are supporting a mature, competent adult runs the risk of being charged with assisted suicide,” he said, noting he was not referring to one particular case.

Alex Schadenberg has his head on straight:

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said the law is there to protect vulnerable people. “Nobody should ever be allowed to directly and intentionally be involved in taking another persons life,” Schadenberg said. “That is a line we should never cross.”

I don’t understand why that simple point is so hard to grasp by so many today. Perhaps it is just that we live in profoundly nihilistic times in which the importance of human life itself has become lost in the gray. As Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne put it once so succinctly:

A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it must be endured.

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