Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett is the faith communities program director at think tank Cardus.

With the impending expansion of Canada’s euthanasia regime in March 2023 permitting doctor-assisted suicide for the mentally ill our country is sleep walking towards a tragic dystopian reality. We have become a society in which you are recognized as only having dignity or inherent value as a human being if you are possessed of a sound mind in a sound body and that you are socially, economically, and I daresay, politically useful. 

Implicit in all of this is that the human person only has real value if they can act independently. This is not only a deeply disordered understanding of the human person, but it spells the end of genuine compassion and true dignity. Most tragically, we are not heeding our deepest conscience, which tells us this is all wrong. Instead we accept the advancement of euthanasia as progress, as a fait accompli

Just because a majority of Canadians support doctor-assisted suicide does not mean that it is right or that it is good for us individually or as a nation. Put another way, just because something is legal and permissible does not mean it is just, good, or true.

At the heart of this debate is not a discussion of legal protections or permissions, of health policy goals, or of individual rights. At its core, the debate over euthanasia is about the very nature of the person. 

In a Cardus commentary on human dignity, Who Are You: Reaffirming Human Dignity, we argued “that human beings are not objects to be used but subjects to be loved, and that coming into communion with one another in our common life reveals this reality of human dignity to us. A human being is not just some thing, a human being is someone.” The seemingly limitless and unthinking expansion of euthanasia in Canada is profoundly at odds with this understanding of the human person.

In that same commentary we argued that “we must also assert that our dignity is in no way diminished by a mental or physical disability, or even by grave illness. If human dignity is an interior reality we can recognize in one another despite external realities, then we have no less dignity if we are limited in our material body.” 

You cannot lose human dignity. Your external propriety, your ability to do things, how you look, or your mental state does not determine how much dignity you have. Dignity is from within.

But, if I am suffering even to the point of death, don’t I lose my dignity? Again we argued “you do not have less dignity when you suffer, for suffering does not rob you of what belongs to your nature but may even serve to draw out its greatness and beauty. Suffering can be very difficult to endure, whether in ourselves or in those close to us.” 

The Judeo-Christian view is that “a human being has infinite worth because we are created in the image and likeness of God, which is much more than a physical or intellectual reality. There is unity between us as members of the human family, and we are in solidarity with one another, even more so where a fellow human being is suffering.” 

Suffering does not diminish or end our dignity. Rather, we affirmed in our commentary that “suffering can teach us … about the deep value of virtues such as patience, obedience, endurance, hope, and trust—all of which are unique to us as human beings.” 

Can such thinking apply in Canada where many don’t share that Judeo-Christian view of the human? It can. French philosopher Jacques Maritain has argued that regardless of religion, those who “believe in the dignity of the human person, in justice, in liberty, in neighbourly love, they also can cooperate in the realization of such a conception in society and cooperate in the common good.”

Today, many Canadians implicitly embrace the view that solidarity with others includes accepting anything, good or evil. Our only criterion seems to be whether the individual desires it. What if what someone desires though gravely harms them, ends a beautiful, irreplaceable, singular human life? 

Euthanasia actually represents a grave failure to be in solidarity with others, to suffer with them, to comfort them, and to gain ourselves an appreciation of the transformative nature of suffering. Let’s be clear, suffering is hard, damn hard, but it is part of our human condition.

Euthanasia is a lonely death and a profound rupture with the solidarity of others. Personal choice is not the highest good; life in all of its many complex stages is. 

As we argued about the patient who desires euthanasia “[the patient] determines whether his or her life has value. If he wants to live, his life has value; if he wants to die, his life can be disposed of at will. The contrary view is that human life is not valuable only when people value it but has inherent value on its own. Human life does not have value because we choose it; we choose life because it has value.”

Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett is the faith communities program director at think tank Cardus.