Charlie Lewis: Why I oppose assisted suicide

By Charlie Lewis

For those who know me or have heard me speak against assisted suicide and euthanasia, you will be familiar with my struggle with spinal problems. I realize that my testimony about my own experience with horrific pain was fair game to use in my arguments against legalized euthanasia, given that legalized killing in this country would also include those with chronic pain.

Pain is universal. It is almost a common denominator of our humanity. Some lucky few will escape the worst of it or will only be plagued for a short time. For me it is now four years and counting. During that time I was forced to leave my beloved newspaper, The National Post, and my position as religion reporter — the greatest beat I had during my 33 years in journalism. And with that I lost the addictive camaraderie of the newsroom.

I was forced to cease nearly every activity I loved: cycling, hiking in the Rockies and moderate consumption of beer and wine — as well as the odd glass of bourbon or single malt scotch. The decision to stop drinking was not my own choice but the reality that after taking morphine every day it is simply too dangerous to consume alcohol.

None of these things should elicit pity. But my condition, along with two surgeries, knocked me into a world I did not expect to visit for many more years.

Pain is isolating. It can play mental tricks on you. It can make you sick to your stomach on some days and cause long bouts of insomnia. And then there is the isolation and the overriding feeling of worthlessness when you are no longer vital and creative.

In the Netherlands and Belgium those with chronic pain, as well as those with depression and other forms of mental illness, can qualify for state-sanctioned suicide. It appears from the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision of last February, when the Court ruled on assisted suicide and by extension euthanasia, that it will not only be the dying who will be granted the wish to die from a physician’s needle.

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