Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On "Right to die" legislation, from the Langley Times

There is no one view on morality

Published: June 09, 2009 9:00 PM

Editor: Never one to shy away from controversy, I feel like it is my responsibility to resist attempts to restrict personal choice. And it is for this reason that I must respond to Todd Hauptman’s letter “Society must value life over death,” (The Times, June 5).

The first thing I must do is to address the word “must.” This denotes an urgency and sense of authority that does not make sense when talking about values or morality. Values are not some absolute concrete thing — our values are all different.

Morality is a discussion to be had, not one view to be legislated and enforced on all citizens. There are morals that have been evolved over the course of human history that are naturally a part of our brain function, but those that are not are areas to discuss, not to dictate.

Mr. Hauptman may think that it is reprehensible to assist people in pain in their very difficult decision to end their life. However, what we are talking about here is not helping depressed or down people kill themselves. We are talking about the person lying in a hospital bed, developing bedsores, unable to keep down any food, as cancer eats away at their body.

These decisions are not made hastily, and to portray this bill as such is wrong, and is a slap in the face to the families of those who make that tough decision.

Mr. Hauptman frequently referenced the phrase “life is a gift from God” as a reason why we “must” prohibit euthanasia. Well, quite frankly, many religious people believe in the right of one to die with dignity.

Many others do not believe there is a God, from which this “gift” is given. In fact, those who declare themselves atheist or agnostic are the fastest-growing group in North America.

To legislate a prohibition on euthanasia based on theological grounds would be inappropriate, to put it mildly. A country in which one religion’s holy book dictates the law is called a theocracy.

Keeping terminally ill people who are in horrendous pain and wish to end their life alive is tortuous, not only to the person, but their family. I hope that The Times’ readers can see the difference between personal religious beliefs and the necessity for prohibitive legislation. I also hope they see that compassion on the part of physicians, when treating fully consenting terminally-ill patients, is not the same thing as choosing to value death over life.

Let’s cut through the euphemisms here, folks. Let’s have an honest discussion, one grounded in science, reason, and respect for the plurality of belief systems that make up our community and nation.

Travis Erbacher,


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