February 23, 2024

Is euthanasia becoming ‘sacred’ in Canada?

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offers an intriguing interpretation of euthanasia in Canada.

As BioEdge has repeatedly reported, “medical assistance in dying” is rising steeply in Canada. There were 10,064 legal MAiD deaths in 2021, up from 0 in 2015.

Drawing on a TV short which managed to combine promotion of MAiD with advertising for an up-scale retail clothing chain, and a libertarian defence of MAiD, Douthat says that there is evidence that euthanasia is becoming “sacred”.

The video is inspired by a “kind of therapeutic, mystical post-Christianity”. And the libertarian, Richard Hanania, reaches back to classical Rome. He says in a Substack column, “Suicide is in many cases a noble and heroic act, and it should therefore have state sanction.”

“We can be inspired at the end of a movie by a protagonist who kills himself once he has failed in his mission or his continued existence harms those he loves, but never by a story that ends with the hero being hooked up to machines, unable to take care of himself, and slowly deteriorating. … The Romans had a concept of “patriotic suicide” in which death was preferable to dishonor, and despite two millennia of Christian influence we can still be inspired by the idea.”

There’s a bit more theoretical strength to Douthat’s comments, though. Most of his readers live in liberal democracies which are busy shedding centuries of Christian thought so that they can be completely secular, that is, religion-less. But his point is that liberalism requires an animating philosophy, a kind of state religion, to function. If it isn’t Christianity, something else will be chosen, whether it’s New Age paganism, or classical pagan Stoicism.

mass acceptance of euthanasia probably won’t replace the Christian prohibition on suicide with a libertarian or secular neutrality. Rather, a society that encourages euthanasia will eventually tend to sacralize it, reaching for pre-Christian or post-Christian narratives in which the decision to kill oneself is not just permissible but holy.