“Making someone die in a way that others approve, but he believes a horrifying contradiction of his life, is a devastating, odious form of tyranny.”
— Ronald Dworkin, emeritus professor, University College London, as quoted
on the Dying with Dignity website
Eyewitness accounts of events are notoriously unreliable. People see things that were never there and forget things they actually saw.
Or they get the details wrong. A stick gets remembered as a baseball bat. A black car at an intersection turns out to be a blue truck.
Some people who read or watch or listen to the news can be like that, too. They imagine aspects of a story that were never there because it fuels their argument, or because they suspect ill intent where none exists.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a British man, Tony Nicklinson, who had locked-in syndrome — severe paralysis which he said made him feel like a prisoner in his own body. He had fought publicly for the right to physician-assisted suicide, since he was physically unable to take his own life. In the end, he died of pneumonia.
Here is what I wrote on Aug. 25 about Tony’s lack of religious faith:
To the people who will argue that only God can decide when our time on Earth is up — or who would suggest that that’s exactly what happened in Tony’s case — I say this: not everyone shares your beliefs.
Tony did not. And he had every right to have his beliefs respected as you do yours.
“Some religious people say god giveth and only he shall taketh away, or some such nonsense,” he tweeted in the interview with The Guardian. “Whatever delusion turns you on just don’t expect me (an atheist) to go along with it.”
You will note that there was no mention of a particular church and there is no indication of my own personal feelings about any church, God or religion in general.
I was merely relaying how Tony said he felt.
And yet out come the letter-writers suggesting I was “attacking those who believe in God.” (letter to the editor, “Euthanasia is not the answer,” Sept. 22).
Another letter-writer, on Aug. 29, declared my column “a dangerous negation of the truth” according to Pope Benedict.
Both letters suppose that their authors’ world view is shared by everyone else and that anyone who takes a position contrary to the tenets of their faith is attacking that faith.
Neither of those letter-writers knows me and they have no idea what my religious beliefs are or are not.
I respect their right to their faith, but I also think people who identify themselves as Christians should demonstrate tolerance.
In writing that I am in favour of medically assisted death, I am saying that I am in favour of medically assisted death, carried out under strict controls and only offered to people who meet rigorous criteria. No one would be forced to opt in.
It’s about giving people choices, not telling them there is only one right way.
And contrary to the letter-writer who described euthanasia as “frightening and reminiscent of what Hitler, Lenin and Mao built without God — tyrannies that phased out the invalids, bedridden cripples and the unproductive aged,” nowhere and not once have I advocated for a free-for-all state-authorized killing service that would rid the world of the elderly and the infirm because they are taking up space on the planet.
That notion is completely objectional.
But thank God we live in a society that allows us all freedom of speech.
That freedom allows you to defend your faith even when it is not under attack, and to attach labels and motives to people based solely on your hunches, and to put it out there in writing.
And I would fight for your right to have your say, though I would prefer you got your facts straight.
Feel free to criticize what you read here. I certainly don’t expect everyone to share my views.
But saying that someone is attacking your church because they believe in something that does not mesh with the rules of your church is incorrect. Rely on that kind of logic and you’ll wind up at Vic Toews’ door.
There’s enough ill intent in this world as there is, without going looking for bogeymen that don’t exist, in closets that aren’t even there.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor.
She can be reached by email at