Canada and physician-assisted suicide

In a deeply disconcerting though not surprising move, in early 2015, Canada joined five states in the US* in legalizing so-called “assisted dying,” allowing doctors nationwide to take the life of a suffering patient when the patient has a “grievous and irremediable” illness.

Known as the “Carter decision,” this ruling is yet another case of judicial fiat like we experience so often here at home, in which the Supreme Court of Canada went beyond interpreting the law and took it upon themselves to create the law.

Making Canada’s situation worse, the Canadian high court gave the legislature one year to pass legislation to clearly define the circumstances under which these acts of euthanasia can be carried out. That deadline has come and gone, however, with no law on the books, leaving Canadian physicians alone to interpret when a patient’s situation is “grievous and irremediable.”

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the lack of legal structure largely gives Canadian doctors pause, making them less likely to assist a patient in taking his own life. A big downside, however, is that nothing is left to stop an American or other foreign citizen from traveling to Canada to find a doctor to help him take his own life.

While Canada’s Carter decision has created an inexcusable legal mess, the real travesty is that it violates the most basic of human rights—the right to life. Following the broader post-Christian culture, the court codified the ridiculous notion that all persons are not equally worthy of life, giving mere man the burden of deciding who’s worthy to live and who’s not. In other words, they’ve sought to remove God from the equation and, in all of their assumed wisdom, are doing their best to take His place.

Tragically, even many who self-identify as Christians have bought into the lie the Supreme Court of Canada is peddling: that the presence of suffering means the absence of dignity and therefore it’s OK to have physicians provide the means to take our own lives. As Kim Kuo so poignantly stated in Christianity today:

Our society is quickly becoming comfortable with the notion of death on demand rather than life in all its complexity. About 7 out of 10 Americans self-identify as Christian. And, according to a 2015 Gallup poll, 69 percent of Americans say doctors should be legally allowed to end a patient’s life if the patient wants it. That means that at least 40 percent of self-identified Christians believe people should be allowed to control the circumstances of their deaths. Much like arguments that have fueled the abortion and gay-marriage movements, we have accepted that each individual has full, unfettered rights to their own bodies, their own lives and loves, and, now, to their own deaths.

If ever there was an apt application of I Corinthians 3:19, it’s this situation. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”

In light of all this, what should be our response? Continue to spread the truth that only God gets to decide the measure of a person’s life. Stay informed of laws in your state and engage in the process, advocating against such repugnant measures like the Carter decision. Not only do we have a moral obligation to do so, it’s in our best interest to do so; for laws like these are the camel’s nose under the tent. We must protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us, holding fast to the immutable truth that matters of life and death are far too weighty for any mortal to decide.

* The five states in the US that have legalized euthanasia include Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and California.