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Reblogged:Every Day and Every Breath Are Sacred

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Conservative Ross Douthat complains at length that Canada permits euthanasia.

It is worthwhile to consider what Douthat complains about.

He opens:
La Maison Simons, commonly known as Simons, is a prominent Canadian fashion retailer. In late October it released a three-minute film: a moody, watery, mystical tribute. Its subject was the suicide of a 37-year-old British Columbia woman, Jennyfer Hatch, who was approved for what Canadian law calls "Medical Assistance in Dying" amid suffering associated with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a group of disorders that affect the body's connective tissues.

In an interview quoted in Canada's National Post, the chief merchant of Simons stated that the film was "obviously not a commercial campaign." Instead it was a signifier of a public-spirited desire to "build the communities that we want to live in tomorrow, and leave to our children."

For those communities and children, the video's message is clear: They should believe in the holiness of euthanasia. [bold added]
I have embedded the video below, but I have not made my mind up on it. It is touching in its portrayal of Hatch and what she loved about life. At the same time, it was made with the aim of persuading people that assisted suicide is a good thing, and I am inclined to think that it ends up being red meat for most of those who already share that opinion and repellent for most of those who don't.

One tribe will mock this, another will love this. I am not a tribesman.

But it's Douthat's reaction I am discussing now. (I certainly don't think the video offers a comprehensive defense of euthanasia, but I don't think it pretends to, either.)

After basically damning the video for being a mystical, emotional appeal and mocking the idea that euthanasia might be a good, holy thing, Douthat begins building what he sees as a case against it:
...Canada has established some of the world's most permissive euthanasia laws, allowing adults to seek either physician-assisted suicide or direct euthanasia for many different forms of serious suffering, not just terminal disease. In 2021, over 10,000 people ended their lives this way, just over 3 percent of all deaths in Canada. A further expansion, allowing euthanasia for mental-health conditions, will go into effect in March 2023; permitting euthanasia for "mature" minors is also being considered. [bold added]
There is no word on how many unassisted suicides or how much suffering those 10,000 assisted deaths averted. Nor is there any data regarding how many curable conditions have been allowed to progress or been made worse by that system to the point that suicide looks like a good option.

And, while Douthat seems plausibly to oppose overly permissive euthanasia laws, don't forget the subject of the video he complained about. (I, who support assisted suicide for competent adults, oppose the same for anyone unable to give legal consent.)

But Douthat continues in that vein, aided by the fact that Canada's health system is run by the government, and so has the real and disturbing prospect of bureaucrats pushing euthanasia as a way to "cut ... health care costs."

I advocate the right to end one's own life and I find that disturbing. My solution to that problem would be: Privatize medical care.

That does not appear to be Douthat's.

Instead, that bureaucracy is brushed aside even less conspicuously than he dismisses Donald Trump's recent mealtime dalliance with anti-Semites, because he has even bigger -- dare I say faith-based -- fish to fry:
[T]he further de-Christianization proceeds, the stronger the impulse to go where the Simons video already went -- to rationalize the new order with implicit reassurances that it's what some higher power wants.

It's often treated as a defense of euthanasia that the most intense objections come from biblical religion. But spiritual arguments never really disappear, and the liberal order in a dystopian twilight will still be infused by some kind of religious faith.

So I remain a conservative... [bold added]
Got that? Douthat, who mocks the video for being mystical and now seems happy to pretend that the morality of euthanasia is premised on some kind of religious faith has nothing really to offer against "the liberal order" -- which, by the way, is hardly the only alternative to religion.

Unless you count mysticism and faith. I don't.

Having said this, I am sure plenty of leftists do basically assert the goodness of euthanasia as if it were an article of faith: Many people correctly liken many aspects of environmentalism, a major current of the left, to a religion, for example.

But that doesn't make euthanasia an article of faith, nor does it mean euthanasia is properly supported from the left any more than capitalism is supported from the right.

Man's inalienable right to his own life is why he has the right to end it on his own. (And for the same reason, he should do so at his own expense, should he choose to do so.) I will not defend that at length here, but I will end by quoting Ayn Rand on three matters directly pertinent to the above.

I do this in part, because the following line from the pro-euthanasia film disturbed me: Last breaths are sacred. I can't let Douthat's imperative to suffer and the gloominess common on the left (that arguably permeates the film) go without at least pointing to a few major better alternatives to aspects of the mystical, religious view of life common to both.

First, Rand has this to say about philosophy, the little-known alternative to religion:
Philosophy is the goal toward which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy. [bold added]
Second, she rescues the meaning of the word sacred (and related concepts) from religion:
I will ask you to project the look on a child's face when he grasps the answer to some problem he has been striving to understand. It is a radiant look of joy, of liberation, almost of triumph, which is unself-conscious, yet self-assertive, and its radiance seems to spread in two directions: outward, as an illumination of the world -- inward, as the first spark of what is to become the fire of an earned pride. If you have seen this look, or experienced it, you know that if there is such a concept as "sacred" -- meaning: the best, the highest possible to man -- this look is the sacred, the not-to-be-betrayed, the not-to-be-sacrificed for anything or anyone. [bold added]
And finally, there is this exchange from her novel, We the Living:
"Do you believe in God, Andrei?"

"No."

"Neither do I. But that's a favorite question of mine. An upside-down question, you know."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never understand what I meant. It's a bad question. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do -- then, I know they don't believe in life."

"Why?"

"Because, you see, God -- whatever anyone chooses to call God -- is one's highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It's a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it."

"You're a strange girl."

"You see, you and I, we believe in life. But you want to fight for it, to kill for it, even to die -- for life. I only want to live it." [bold added] (p. 107)
Religious conservatives such as Douthat and mystical leftists alike are wrong about what is sacred and when. Holiness is neither a few hours a week on Sunday nor only at the end of life: Every day and every breath of a life one chooses to live rationally is sacred. And that life doesn't belong to a god or "society:" It is yours.

I hope I die peacefully, and blissfuly unaware of the event. But if I find myself in circumstances in which continuing to live is unbearable, I would like the option of ending it on my own terms, as is my right.

Douthat happens to be right on one point: It is obscene for a government scheme that deprives people of their money (and their medical autonomy with it) to push death as a "solution" to their problems. But it is no less obscene to demand that another person live and suffer against his wishes.

-- CAV

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