Light is Right Joe Campbell

Light is Right Joe Campbell

I get the impression that the phrase “doctor-assisted dying” is becoming a media favourite. Don’t journalists know that we’ve been dying unassisted since time immemorial? We don’t need help dying. It comes natural to us. If anything, we need help living. I thought that’s what doctors were for.

Doctor-assisted living, I understand. Doctors routinely help us stay alive when, left to our own devices, we might die. Doctor-assisted dying, I don’t understand, unless not helping us live means helping us die. Don’t journalists know the difference between not doing something and doing it?

Oh, I realize that some of us might think assisted dying is a synonym for assisted suicide. But I can’t imagine trained wordsmiths thinking it. Don’t journalists know that dying is not killing?

Synonyms help to clarify verbal and written expression. They enable speakers and writers to impart the precise shade of meaning they intend. Assisted dying, however, clouds rather than clarifies expression. Instead of imparting the intended shade of meaning, it puts the intended meaning in the shade. In other words, it’s deliberately deceptive. Assisted dying is a euphemism. It’s not a synonym. It’s a sin.

As a euphemism for suicide, assisted dying ranks in deception with reproductive choice and removing the products of conception as euphemisms for abortion. Can’t journalists tell evasiveness from plain talk?

Euthanasia, of course, is also euphemistic. Depending on the circumstances, it’s a euphemism for suicide or murder. Why, even euphemism is euphemistic. As a euphemism for deception, it means using positive words or phrases to mask a negative reality.

Derived from Greek, both words are euphemistic to their verbal roots, translating, respectively, as good death and good omen. I’ve tried, but I can’t imagine a deeper deception than calling evil good.

Unless it’s calling good evil. If we oppose assisted suicide or euthanasia, proponents may call us judgmental, moralistic, inhumane or worse. Needless to say, these are not euphemisms. They’re dysphemisms, or slurs, intended to silence dissent. But if we practice what we preach through our own deaths, we are none of these. On the contrary, we are heroic.

I can think of few acts more dignified than to die heroically for the sake of others. The dignity lives on in all who gain strength from our fortitude. Greater love has no man…

Through life, few of us have the opportunity to exercise genuine heroism. Through death, many of us do. If, in word and by example, we stand for life and reject killing as a remedy for pain, we help rescue the vulnerable from an increasingly death embracing society. We opt for the common good, a moral reality that the passion for private rights over public duties violates.

Among the vulnerable, I include the physically and mentally disabled at all stages of life, the young and old whose care is burdensome or costly, and others who, duped into believing a diminished life is not worth living, plan to die before their own lives decline. I also include the many in good health who lose faith in their doctors for fear of being starved, dehydrated or otherwise killed when their physical or mental condition deteriorates.

Where assisted suicide or euthanasia has been legal long enough to assess the impact, reports persist of patients killed without their consent and even against their expressed wishes. What’s more, guidelines aimed at controlling the procedures inevitably give way. In the Netherlands, eligibility expanded from the terminally ill, to the chronically ill, to the depressed, and from adults to children.

Not only on the vulnerable, but on all of us, the culture of death exerts enormous pressure to solve problems by self-destruction. Can’t journalists see that this is the reverse of respect for life? Don’t they understand that it’s the opposite of dignity and heroism?

You would think that with palliative care improving and heroism less demanding, media support for euthanasia would diminish. Don’t journalists see the madness of killing to stop suffering when pain-control drugs and procedures are more effective than ever?

High priests of the culture of death preach that disciples dispatched under the rubrics of euthanasia die with dignity. I can’t help but agree. They don’t die alone. Dignity dies with them.