Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Life Worthy of Life

“When I hear the appalling, disgusting argument that we should have abortions because the child just might be disabled - ughh, the horror that fills my heart. Ladies and gentlemen there are things that you will only be able to learn by the weakest among us. And when you snuff them out you are the one that loses, the Lord looks after them, but you are the one that will suffer forever. And what arrogance. What absolute arrogance and it has been an argument for so long in this human place that we live that the stronger should dominate the weaker - should determine who lives or dies. The arrogance of that. Don’t you realize that you cannot make your own heart beat? Don’t you realize that all the power that you think you possess, you really possess none of it. It is the mercy of God that sustains you - even when you hate Him…”1 Gianna Jessen, cerebral palsy sufferer 

We live in a world where human rights are being talked about everyday in our media, where we are scrutinizing every law that is passed for any possible human rights violation. Where we are starting to insist that people have a human right not even to be offended by what we think or say, much less what we do. In the midst of this, where human rights are extolled and championed in every public square we are beginning to undermine the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of society, those who are disabled. 

Early this year the newspapers focused on the truly horrifying account of the death of Karissa Boudreau. Karissa’s mother Penny strangled  her daughter because the girl was interfering with her relationship with a boyfriend. The town was devastated by the death of Karissa, and when the news broke that the killer was her mother, the entire nation expressed it’s rage and contempt. How could any mother do something so terrible and horrific? Eventually she was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 20 years. A just punishment for a cruel, calculated, coldblooded murder. 

Several years ago a man killed his daughter. It was a deliberate, coldblooded murder. He snuffed out the life of a little girl who could smile and love just like Karissa. But he became a Canadian folk hero. You see his daughter was disabled, and Karissa wasn’t. Robert Latimer was considered justified by the majority of Canadians, because the life of his daughter wasn’t worth all that much. She lived with pain, most people who live with pain still don’t want to die. She did not have the intellectual capacity of most children. Do we now have the death sentence based on IQ level? She was a trouble to her parents,  so was Karissa. Why was Latimer a hero and and Boudreau a villain? 

Now in Quebec a couple are suing a hospital for allowing their daughter with cerebral palsy to live. The hospital gave the baby Phebe Manth a feeding tube after the parents had it removed, The child was not dying but they decided that her quality of life would not be good enough. Now the parents want 3.5 million dollars. They think that the hospital had no right to reverse the couple’s decision to remove nutrition. I don’t care who the parents are, if I see a child dying of starvation, I will not need anyone’s permission to feed it. I will not ask whether or not the child can walk or read or do anything of the kind, they do not deserve to die just because they are disabled.

People say that euthanasia is important because people who are disabled should have the right not to live like they do. They say that we should be able to kill people who live in constant pain (which by the way is mostly a myth. Almost no one needs to live in chronic pain these days, those who do probably need to get a different doctor.) Yet while this is done in the name of the disabled the societies who actually support disability rights are firmly opposed to euthanasia. You see they know. They know that life is worth living even if it is not the life that you would choose to live. They know that euthanasia will lead to people being killed just because they are disabled, because they are too much trouble. They know that euthanasia is the easy answer for people who are well. But it will erode respect for the disabled and will make people more willing to quit when things get tough instead of working through the problems and seeking solutions. 

Mark Pickup wrote, “After living 30 years as a normal, healthy man, the sudden onset of disability was a terrible shock. At about the 2-3 year point with MS my grief was so profound and unimaginable, my sorrow so deep, my heartache so sharp, that my judgment was clouded. I’m glad there was nobody in the business of granting death wishes back in the mid-1980s. Fortunately, I had a family that loved me and lifted me up as somebody of value, even when I doubted my value. If I didn’t have such unconditional love, I might have wanted to die. In 1991, I was forced into retirement from the Canadian civil service at the age of 38 years and sank into a clinical depression. My perspective became skewed I had to be able to safely grieve. People need to grieve loss. They must be able to safely cry out and say the most outrageous things. It is unfair to hold them to a death wish or abandon them when they are at their lowest point.”2

People need love, hope, faith, and charity. They do not need to be deserted in their darkest moments by a society which thinks that they are better off dead.

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