One camp says we must get involved with the process of creating a safe euthanasia law. They say if we stay on the sidelines we will have no chance to influence the outcome. On some level I can see how this would seem to make sense: Given the odds of stopping the legalization of euthanasia is becoming smaller by the day why not at least try to make it as safe as possible? Why not try to ensure the process has enough checks and hurdles that only a rare few can ever access euthanasia? This all makes sense except for the fact it is fatally flawed.
In almost every case where euthanasia or assisted suicide has had time to put down legal roots it grows. At first the law is narrowly applied and then it becomes wider. It starts with those with fatal diseases who are in unremitting pain... and then suddenly it opens its doors to those with chronic pain, psychological pain or those who simply have decided that life itself is a pain. Worse, none are required to seek out treatment as an alternative. Even in the case of fatal diseases, euthanasia cuts short what may have been good years without pain to be enjoyed. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who now beat cancer or live well even years after they were supposed to have died.
The other camp, the camp I am in and those who I most admire are part of, says no cooperation with killers. Imagine if euthanasia becomes legal. Anyone who assisted the government will be, in some way complicit. Even when people complain about how the law has become more deadly than what they pushed for, the government can say: "You had your chance. We let you help. You are as culpable as we are."
It is an understatement to say that the road myself and allies have taken is harder. Anyone who calls our route a long shot or even naive is not wrong. Yet, history is peppered with long shots that succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination. Think of the Jewish people after the Second World War. The psychological devastation should have left survivors as lifelong psychiatric patients. Instead three years later Israel was created. Who could have predicted that?
Finally, standing up for the right thing is never wrong. It is more important than winning or losing. Remember, this battle will go on even if euthanasia becomes legal. I for one would rather fight it with clean hands.
Charles Lewis was a journalist for 33 years and a former writer for the National Post.