Queen’s Philosophy professor Udo Schuklenk has been selected to head a prestigious new international panel on “End-of-Life Decision Making” in Canada. Appointed by the Royal Society of Canada, the expert panel will investigate key aspects of this critical issue – including voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide – and prepare a public report.
No matter how unbearably patients suffer due to illness or injury toward the end of their lives, the world’s monotheistic religions stand as one in their rejection of many dying patients’ requests to end their lives in dignity. That we may well be of sound mind, and that there is no prospect of our condition improving, makes no difference to their stance. Our own considered judgment that life is not worth living any longer counts for nothing to organized monotheistic religions. According to them, we are not ethically entitled to ask for physician assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia. This is surprising, given that at the end of our natural lives churches have promised us that we would be going to heaven – or hell, as the case might be. If at the end of a decently lived life we would go to heaven and enjoy eternal life, why are they fighting our earthly death so vigorously? None of this makes any sense at all if we take religious beliefs about our afterlife seriously. Once again substantial, avoidable human suffering is a direct consequence of religious interference with our end-of-life decision-making.