There’s more than one kind of tyranny

Pam Frampton
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“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

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: University College London

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Recent comments

  • Ron Tizzard
    October 01, 2012 - 09:18

    Nice item Pam. I join your perspective. Matters pertaining to any subject which is beyond reasonable explaination or scientific validation is up for grabs, open to one's own value-sets to understand or not; to accept or deny. For others to judge, and attempt to dissuade or persuade is a mark of their own insecurities seeking securities in numbers, or otherwise are bounded zealots reaching for truths through pure spirituality which does not exist in the realm of humanity...hence their insecurities. They float psychologically, in these matters, missing the value of 'faith' in its broadest forms, definition and context from which average people can draw their own value of personally styalized faith and beliefs through time, taking many years in most cases, associated with personal strengths, securities and maturity levels. They often speak in the 'collective', 'assumptive' language from which they draw security...hence they appear to be joiners, or recruiters in their use of language. Ironically, they are insecure in their own 'truths' and speak frequently in the collective, rahter than the personal. An interesting topic, Pam. Nice column.

  • Jacklyn Adams
    September 29, 2012 - 12:07

    Lovely article, Ms. Frampton. I enjoy your articles.

  • Colin Burke
    September 29, 2012 - 10:39

    Good column, Pam. Have you noticed, as I think I did, a comment in Ed Smith's current column which might be relevant to yours? Suggesting two similarities between some Catholics and most Muslims?

  • Herb Morrison
    September 29, 2012 - 09:31

    Well-said, Ms. Frampton. For the record, some of the finest people I know seldonm if ever "Darken a Church door." Speaking as a professing Christian, anyone who would choose to pass judgement on another, should read the Biblical account of jesus reaction to the howling mob who demanded the life of the woman caught committing adultry.