I’m writing to you in regards to the letter that Mr. Nielsen published on Nov. 11, 2019 letter [LETTER: Walnut Grove letter writer lays out personal beliefs on killing, langleyadvancetimes.com]. In his letter Mr. Nielsen discusses his thoughts on medical assistance in dying.
Mr. Nielsen remarks that “most western democracies were built on the basis of certain inalienable and presumably unalterable rights or rules.” Mr. Nielsen states that one of the inalienable rules was “you shall not kill.” I agree with Mr. Nielsen, although I also believe that one of these inalienable rights is the right to personal autonomy, that is, the right to make decisions for ourselves based on what we feel is best. Of course, if these choices harm other people, law enforcement and our judicial system should step in to protect others. Nevertheless, we must balance all of our inalienable rights to make the best rules and norms for society to follow.
Mr. Nielsen makes a comparison between when the majority of Americans “believed dark skinned people were inferior to white skinned people.” I agree with Mr. Nielsen’s statement that “the fact that the majority believed it to be true did not make it true.”
However, there is a difference between people making an informed medical decision to end their life before they struggle from severe pain and suffering and African-Americans being enslaved and discriminated against.
Furthermore Mr. Nielsen makes another comparison in between the Holocaust and medically assisted dying. These examples are not equivalence to one another since the circumstances are not the same. In the comparisons the consent of the people involved is not the same. All people who wish to pursue a medically assisted death must legally be of sound mind to consent to medically assisted death twice whereas no one in the Holocaust consented to being murdered in a mass genocide.
When we consider our inalienable rights or rules, we have to consider more than just one right or rule at a time and consider all of them all together and what our current laws say.
Just because some democracies were founded on a principle, doesn’t mean that we still have to follow said principle. Canada itself was founded on unceded territory and yet we continue to live here despite one of our founding principles being “you shall not steal.”
As a country and as a society, we need to be able to evolve based on what we know scientifically and morally. If someone with a serious medical condition is of sound mind and wants to make their own decision on a medically assisted death, I would argue that it’s not killing, it’s exercising one’s right to choose what to do with their own body.
Nicola Ethier, Langley