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Sumner has presented his perspective on the end of his own life: “I want to be the one who decides.”1 The desire for individual autonomy is very much in line with attitudes in Canada that assign priority to individual rights and privileges. However, such priority does not exist in a vacuum.
The moral and social environment inheres not only in separate individuals but also in a society. There is a need to reflect on the impact of any decisions on the quality of our society, on our humanity. Although I agree that it might be comforting to be legally permitted to decide when and how I may end my life, this conveys an attitude, and therefore future decisions, about the value of a human life apart from its “worth” or its “meaning.” To compare the death of a cat to the death of a human is not a useful analogy. As a culture, we shall favour alleviating pain even if it shortens life. To encourage and make possible the intentional killing of myself or my fellow is not good for our society and will backfire.
For the full letter, go to: www.cmaj.ca/cgi/eletters/182/9/1004