“I want to die with dignity.”

As an extension of our series on euthanasia and assisted suicide, we’re diving into COLF‘s “quick answers to common arguments” document. Here’s argument number two.

“I want to die with dignity.”

There is nothing dignified about swallowing a pill or getting a needle that will ensure a quick death. Euthanasia does not restore dignity; it eliminates the sometimes lonely and guilt ridden person in a way which is not always as painless as people would like to think.

I’m not so sure about questioning the painlessness (though that’s a legitimate practical concern), but the key in this response is that euthanasia does not restore dignity.

This is a deep question: Where do we derive our dignity from?

Why do we fear losing it in an end of life situation? I think the problem is that people feel that a lack of control or a loss of some certain abilities deprive us of our dignity. How could seeking death possibly heal that? I think that the real problem is that we’re looking for dignity and self-worth from the wrong sources. Our dignity doesn’t come from how able we are, or from what we are; it comes from who we are. The deeper problem is a culture that has a false basis for dignity and value.

Euthanasia is an escape from the challenge of discovering the true basis of our dignity, not a solution.

Dignity is not determined by physical or mental health, by autonomy or by usefulness to society. Human dignity is founded on the inherent worth of each human person, which can never be taken away by external factors or circumstances. The simple fact of being human gives us a dignity which no other
living beings possess.

Hey, what do you know? I wrote my comments on the first point before reading the second…

Palliative care provides a dignified death by giving patients the pain management and the social, emotion and spiritual support they require to live a good death with courage. Giving this support, of course, takes time and perseverance

And there’s the practical response — there’s a better way.

We are relational beings capable of loving and caring for others. Our sense of dignity is inextricably tied to the respect that we have for each other as human beings. If people feel they are loosing their dignity, it is our responsibility to make them feel valued again. How do they see themselves in our eyes? We all have the power to respond with friendship, love and solidarity to the illness of others in order to uphold and protect their “right to life” until the moment of natural death. We need each other in death as we need each other in life.

Absolutely. If someone feels undignified, the compassionate response is to restore their sense of dignity, to treat them with respect. Killing someone in response to a loss of a sense of dignity is a cop out, and it doesn’t restore anyone’s dignity — it eliminates the person in question so that we don’t have to make them feel valued again. We need to be there for those who are suffering. Providing a suffering person with death is not an adequate response to their real need to feel loved.


Previous posts in this series:

Blaise Alleyne (0T9) completed a B. Sc. with a major in computer science, and minors in English and philosophy. He is currently in the Masters of Theology Studies program at Regis College at the University of Toronto. Blaise has been involved with UTSFL since becoming a member in 2005.

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