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October 21, 2013

According to Canada's advocates for assisted suicide and euthanasia the time has come to overturn the law that prohibits those nefarious activities. And if the time has not come this year, then it will come next year, or the year after that or . . .. The push for so-called death with dignity will continue until the law is changed.

At that point, public discussion of the issue will cease since it has been resolved to their liking and Canada will have "progressed" into a new, ostensibly more enlightened era.

We have seen this scenario with abortion and same-sex "marriage" – advocacy is incessant until the law is liberalized and, after that, there is no discussion of a return to societal respect for real values. It matters not even if the law is changed while the majority of the population is confused about what is taking place.

The case of Quebec is instructive. There, the government's "medical aid in dying" bill will soon pass the National Assembly with all political party support.

The people of Quebec, however, are quite in the dark as to what is occurring. Only a third of the population understands that the bill means legalized active euthanasia. Another third believe the government is promoting palliative care. Forty per cent think the bill will simply allow doctors to withdraw aggressive life-support methods that prolong the process of dying - something that is legal now.

The movement for euthanasia feeds off of such confusion. The reality once euthanasia is legalized is grim. In the Flemish region of Belgium, 32 per cent of instances of euthanasia were performed without the patients' request or consent. At a euthanasia facility in Switzerland, people who are not terminally ill, but rather disabled, chronically ill or depressed, are frequently euthanized.

If euthanasia is legalized in Canada and the population ages, there will be an increased tendency to classify the elderly, disabled and unemployable as "useless eaters" – people who drain society's resources and who contribute nothing of value.

The defence against the casual disposal of human life is to see people as gifts of God, rather than units of economic production. In an anonymous mass society, other people are increasingly seen as things, not persons. Likewise, there is a tendency to see "my" life in isolation, as a possession which I can freely dispose of.

These are difficult tendencies to battle. They require societal changes in attitude toward seeing others as persons and oneself as part of a communion of humanity. Until we make that shift, the spectre of euthanasia will loom large. We should not expect to see a cessation in the push for euthanasia until there is widespread recognition that life itself is truly a gift.