As a Christian physician, opposing medically assisted suicide wasn’t enough. I needed to understand why people decide to die.
When I began research for my book on physician-assisted death, I set out to answer the question Why not?—which, at the time, was not a theoretical one. As a doctor specializing in intensive care medicine, I would regularly receive requests from patients for help to end their lives.
In 2014, not long after I had finished my training, serious conversations began about the possibility of legalizing physician-assisted death, and I realized that “where causing death was once a vice, it was soon to be a virtue”—as I shared in a previous piece for CT.
But ever since my country, Canada, legalized MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) in 2016, I have tried to demonstrate to my colleagues and fellow citizens—beginning with, but going well beyond, my faith convictions as a Christian.
Intentionally causing someone’s death contravenes and violates their incalculable worth. So long as we are committed to upholding the intrinsic value of persons—so long as we insist that their value does not merely derive from their usefulness to others or to themselves—it is inappropriate and unethical for us to seek or to offer physician-assisted death.
More than that, relying on our own sense-experience and human faculties, we cannot confidently claim to know what it is like to be dead. Therefore, it is unwise and imprudent to seek and (especially) to offer physician-assisted death. Both these reasons, I think, count quite strongly, and seem to provide a very good answer to the Why not? question.
Is the case then closed? Not quite, I think.
For to respond effectively to this issue, we must not only address the Why not? question. We must also respond to the Why? question. We must address …