Opinion – Ross Douthat: Canada Expands Assisted Suicide; find out what the practice has done in the country

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La Maison Simons, commonly known as Simons, is a leading Canadian fashion store. At the end of October, she released a three-minute film: a melancholic, fluid and mystical tribute. His subject was the suicide of a British Columbia woman, Jennyfer Hatch, 37, who was entitled to what Canadian law calls “medical assistance in death” due to suffering caused by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a series of disorders that affect the connective tissues of the body.

In an interview quoted in Canada’s National Post, Simons’ commercial director stated that the film was “obviously not a commercial campaign”. Rather, it represented a public-spirited desire to “build the communities we want to live in tomorrow and leave to our children.”

For these communities and children, the video’s message is clear: they must believe in the sanctity of medically assisted suicide.

In recent years, Canada has established some of the most permissive medically assisted suicide laws in the world, which authorize adults to pursue medically assisted suicide or direct euthanasia to end many forms of severe suffering, not just terminal illness.

In 2021, over 10,000 people ended their lives this way, over 3% of all deaths in Canada. A new expansion, allowing medically assisted suicide for mental health issues, will go into effect in March; permission of medically assisted suicide for “mature” minors is also being considered.

In the age of populism, there is intense debate about when a democracy ceases to be liberal. But the rise of medically assisted suicide poses a different question: what if a society remains liberal but ceases to be civilized?

The rules of civilization necessarily include gray areas. It is not barbaric that the law recognizes difficult options in palliative care, about when to withdraw life support or how intensely to deal with agonizing pain.

It is barbaric, however, to establish a bureaucratic system that offers death as a reliable treatment for suffering and recruits health professionals to provide this “cure”. While there may be worse evils ahead, this is not a slippery argument: when 10,000 people are using the medically assisted suicide system every year, you’ve already entered dystopia.

Indeed, according to a lengthy report by Maria Cheng of the Associated Press news agency, the Canadian system exhibits exactly the corrosive characteristics that critics of assisted suicide predicted, from health professionals allegedly suggesting it to their patients to sick people seeking it out. financial stress relief.

In these questions, it can be seen that medically assisted suicide interacts with other problems of modernity: the isolation imposed by family breakdown; the spread of chronic illness and depression; the pressure on aging societies with low birthrates to reduce their health care costs.

But the evil isn’t just in these interactions; it’s there at the base. The idea that human rights include the right to self-destruction, the idea that people in a state of terrible suffering and vulnerability are indeed “free” to make a choice that ends all choice, the idea that a healing profession you must include death in your battery of treatments—these are inherently destructive ideas. Left unchecked, they will forge a cruel brave new world, a last inhuman chapter to liberal history.

For anyone on the right who opposes Donald Trump and the filth that surrounds him (most recently at his dinner table in Mar-a-Lago), the last six years have posed difficult questions about when it makes sense to identify with conservatism, worry about its direction and survival.

One answer revolves around which dystopian future you fear the most. Among the “Never Trumpers” [trumpistas nunca] who have abandoned the right entirely, the overwhelming fear is of an authoritarian or fascist future, a right-wing threat to democracy, which demands all possible resistance.

But in the Canadian experience one can see what the US would look like with true right-wing power broken and a repressed conservatism offering minimal resistance to social liberalism. And the dystopian danger seems not only more immediate than any right-wing authoritarian scenario, but also more difficult to resist – because its characteristics are congruent with so many other trends, its path softened by so many powerful institutions.

Yes, there are liberals, Canadians and Americans alike, who can see what’s wrong with medically assisted suicide. Yes, the most explicit cheering for relief may still inspire reaction: Twitter reactions to the Simons video were harsh and it disappeared from the company’s website.

But without a potent conservatism the cultural balance leans too heavily against these doubts. And the further dechristianization goes, the stronger the impulse to go where the Simons video already went – ​​to rationalize the new order with implicit assurances that this is what some higher power wants.

It is often used in defense of medically assisted suicide that the strongest objections come from biblical religion. But the spiritual arguments never really go away, and the liberal order in a dystopian twilight will still be infused with some kind of religious faith.

So I remain conservative, unfortunately but with determination, because only conservatism seems to offer a firm obstacle to this dystopia – and I prefer not to discover the full nature of your faith.

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