26 January 2009

The Swiss Example

Switzerland is an interesting country. Historically, they have followed the beat of their own drummer; managing to stay neutral in two world wars and most wars prior to those; giving a home to the early protestant reformers and having all citizens join the military so they can enforce their neutrality. Unfortunately, they have not stayed neutral in the culture of life vs. death war. Switzerland is the home of Dignitas, the "death with dignity" agency. For a fee, they will help those who want to die, die. The law doesn't provide any procedures for assisted suicide; you simply need to show up at their door, pay the fee and two hours later you can be dead. This has made Switzerland a tourist destination for people around the world who want to die, or are being pressured to die so they aren't a burden on their families.

I've never bought the death with dignity argument, but this article from the Daily Mail horrified me. I thought I'd heard all the horrors around assisted suicide, but the stuff described in the article is beyond comprehension. I don't know how anyone can claim Dignitas provides a dignified death- if even half of what this article alleges is true Dignitas is the biggest fraud around. A former Dignitas employee alleges that Dignitas is all about profit; they pawn the property of those who come to die, and they've convinced wealthy patrons to leave large amounts of money to them. The deaths are far from dignified; one woman who was in a wheelchair was manhandled up the stairs, screaming in agony because she didn't fit into the elevator, they prescribe and have patients administer lethal drugs in less than two hours and left a man in agony for 70h after the suicide machine failed to kill him and the only concern was that patients were backing up waiting for the room to empty so they could die.

Dignitas' response to these allegations is that the employee is merely disgruntled and they now enforce a privacy agreement over all employees to keep their mouths shut. I felt queasy just reading this article. That said, I thank God that I can still be horrified. I haven't been so desensitized by this culture of death that articles like this fail to shock and appall me. We need to keep assisted suicide illegal in Canada so that things like this can't legally happen in Canada. If we find out that people are participating in so called death with dignity, we need to prosecute them and we need judges to enforce strict sentences on the perpetrators of these crimes. We need politicians with a backbone who will legislate laws that criminalize and punish those who aid in suicide and we need a media that doesn't parrot the culture of death's lines that people with disabilities, mental illness or terminal illness have a duty to die. To have all that, we need a population that is pro life and not afraid to speak out.

Let Switzerland be an example to us. If we don't speak out, it could be Canada that is a death-tourism hotspot and it could be our parents, children, family or friends that are dying on the floor of a dirty room, convulsing in comatose pain because someone figures they can profit more from their death than in helping them to live.

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