The euthanasia debate is back on and if there is one thing we can’t afford to do, it is to sit on the sidelines.
What I mean by that, of course, is wriggling out of the debate by saying “oh, I’m not sure what I would do personally, but I guess if others wanna do it it’s up to them”.
I have heard that line probably more than any other in the discussions I’ve had about euthanasia. Many of us feel a bit icky about the idea, and yet think that we have no right to interfere if others want to be euthanased.
It’s their choice, after all, isn’t it? And who are we to get in between another human being and what they want?
Aside from the fact that it defeats the point of a democratic society, there is another problem to deal with.
We interfere with individual freedom all the time. And we do it because we believe that individual freedom has to be balanced against a thing called the “social good”, which means “what is best for the rest of us”.
We do not give individuals the freedom to take anything they see and happen to like. We call that stealing and it is a crime. We do not give individuals the freedom to have sex with whoever they would like, whenever they would like. We call that rape, or incest, or abuse depending on the situation. And they are crimes.
And at present we do not give anyone the right to kill, or help to kill, someone. We call that murder. And it is a crime.
Any change to murder laws, and you and I ought to be on high alert. We ought to be looking very carefully at what is changing, and why.
We ought to be looking at what has happened overseas, we ought to especially be looking at the risks involved, but most of all we ought to be looking at who loses out with such laws. After all, for every social change we make there are people who benefit and people who are harmed.
In this case, harm means murder. And that is very serious because once we are dead, we cannot come back.
So if euthanasia laws do result in some people being harmed, saying that we personally feel a bit unsure but we’re happy to let others do what they please is a little like saying we’re not sure about slavery laws, but we’re happy to let others do as they please.
It is unethical, because our silence creates victims.
On the other hand, if your reading makes you certain such laws are what is best for our society, why would you want to stay silent? Surely, we should all speak up for what is good, right and best for all of us.
It is no secret I believe that euthanasia laws absolutely will create victims. That is to say, based on the evidence from overseas, safeguards like consent, age restrictions and illness restrictions will gradually be eroded. And of course, a law without safeguards is by definition not safe.
That matters to me because I have a vested interest in the future. I have a little boy whom these laws will affect in one way or another. And that is the point. We are all connected, and our actions do impact other people, as much as we like to imagine that they don’t.
So we can all keep pretending ethics are personal opinion, but the fact remains that the victims of bad laws are real.
That alone should be enough to convince us that the sidelines are not an option in a debate about death.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz