Physician-Assisted Suicide and Spiritual Suicide

On the morning of Friday, February 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the law against assisted suicide was unconstitutional. Canada now joins a small, elite group of madly progressive countries in abandoning the most fundamental principle in all of nature.

All living things, from an ameba to a human being seek to preserve their lives. Striving to live is first and foremost what living things do. For humans, who have reason and free will as well as instinct, the willful desire to live, is the flame which we must encourage in each other when we are old and sick and suffering and every breath becomes a battle. We must hold our post even and especially when the enemy is sure to vanquish us, because to continue to strive to live is to keep faith with the deepest thing within us. It is noble and worthy of the breath of God within us. It is also to recognize that truth does not begin and end within us. Our lives do not belong to us. We dare not take from God the power over life and death which belongs to Him alone.

But the Supreme Court of Canada long ago left behind nature and holy reverence. It has struck down laws prohibiting abortion, and for this the innocent blood of millions indicts the court. It has struck down laws preserving marriage, and for this, untold numbers of broken hearts and fatherless children indict the court. It has struck down laws prohibiting prostitution, and for this thousands upon thousands of persons created in the image of God have been reduced to meat, to be used and abused, these humiliated victims indict the court. And once again, in striking down laws which prohibit doctors from assisting their patients in killing themselves, the court has inserted a poisonous siringe in the heart of the one true test of the greatness of a people, how it treats the weak, the defenseless and the needy. The Supreme Court of Canada has abandoned the natural foundations of all that is good and healthy and life giving. To wear the black robes of the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada is to be draped in shame.

The sickness in the soul of Canada has been a long time festering. Abortion was legalized in Canada in 1969, some 46 years ago. Everyone born in Canada since 1969 has been born into a country in which they could have been legally killed. Their being, while in the womb, was not a good in itself, protected by law. Their lives were contingent upon the good will of their mothers.

Once born, abortion was no longer a mortal threat—you had made it past the birth threshold. But that you might have been killed, that it would have been OK to kill you, this is an existential devaluation which continues beyond birth. The shadow of death persists.

Abortion has created a deep-seated insecurity among all those born since the legalization of abortion. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the most basic needs must be satisfied before higher order needs can be addressed. Survival needs must be attended to before we can concern ourselves with safety and security needs, social needs, self-esteem needs and transcendent spiritual needs. Abortion tethers the souls of all of us to legally sanctioned murder and holds us back from the hope and joy necessary to fully develop the higher reaches of our souls. Abortion killed millions upon millions of babies, but it has constricted the psychological growth of those who made it through, those who weren’t aborted.

Physician-assisted suicide is an obvious continuation of the death logic of abortion. Like abortion which was initially promoted as a response to hard cases but has in practise become birth control, physician-assisted suicide has been promoted as a response to desperate pain, but elsewhere in the world where it is already practiced, physician-assisted suicide has become a means of disposing of the unwanted. It is easy to see the justification for a very aggressive deployment of physician-assisted suicide. Our population has been rapidly aging and the increased health care costs of the aged have been consuming ever larger proportions of government budgets. Physician-assisted suicide will not be limited to desperate pain.

As of February 6, the handicapped, the sick and the aged have been told that they may enlist the services of a physician to commit suicide. With icy faux compassion they have been told that they are no longer part of the most fundamental human contract which binds us all, the mutually supported obligation to strive to live. And of course what is allowed will soon enough be prescribed. In the Netherlands, euthanasia is often committed without the consent of the person killed. Before long physician assisted suicide will become state sponsored homicide. No, physician-assisted suicide is state sponsored homicide.

The Church defines a sacrament as a sign that achieves what it signifies, and in some profound sense, everything that we do on this side of the veil has the sacramental power of achieving a spiritual reality either of light and godliness, or of darkness and evil.  Our acts become habits which in turn become our characters; who we are. The slow-motion suicide of a culture which kills its children so that it can perpetuate its own fantasy of childhood is spiritually transforming. It is who we are. And now we have also officially abandoned those most in need of the most basic human covenant, supporting each other in the struggle to live.

For quite some time the outlier advocates of physician-assisted suicide have moved past the rhetorical fig leaf of unbearable pain and have spoken of the right to die. There are already some who speak of an obligation to die. These people are prophets of the anti-Christ. It is a spiritual darkness which beckons.

The Gospel reading for Friday February 6, 2015 is Mark 6:14-29. It is a breathtaking scene in which Herod has seduced Herodias, the wife of his brother, and John the Baptist has denounced the sin. Herodias wants John killed, but Herod is afraid of John because he is righteous. Then there is the feast celebrating Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias dances for Herod and his guests—and he is much pleased. Imagine the mental hell of Herodias, in the untenable position of adultress, now watching Herod, for whom she had abandoned honor, lusting after her daughter. Herod makes an oath to give the girl anything she asks, even half of his kingdom. The girl goes to her mother, who must now despise her daughter, no doubt delighting in her ascendant sexual power. Herodias tells her to demand the head of John the Baptist on a plate.

What is truly spectacular but easy to miss is how this Gospel is a retrospective. It is told as after the fact, all in support of something easily overlooked. It is about all of the lust and sordid intrigue but at an even deeper level it is about how Herod was blind to Christ because of his sin. Before the account of the murder of John the Baptist the Gospel begins:

King Herod had heard about Jesus, since by now his name was well-known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others said, “He is Elijah”; others again, “He is a prophet, like the prophets we used to have.” But when Herod heard this he said, “It is John whose head I cut off; he has risen from the dead.”

Herod was unable to recognize Christ because he had made himself God in taking the life of John the Baptist. The dead remained among him rising with miraculous powers, but it would be more true to say that Herod himself was already among the dead, inhabiting the spiritual order he had created. Herod had created his own hell, in which Christ could not be recognized and so too for us, the dead are among us, or rather we are among the dead, as we abort our children and murder the elderly, the sick and the suffering, and this is surely one of the great reasons why, like Herod, we do not recognize Christ.

(Photo credit: Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Joe Bissonnette


Joe Bissonnette teaches religion and philosophy at Assumption College School in Brantford, Ontario where he lives with his wife and their seven children. He has written for Catholic Insight, The Human Life Review, The Interim, The Catholic Register and The Toronto Star.

  • Scott W.

    I am reminded of the account of the plague that ravaged Athens during the Peloponnesian war. Thucydides tells that it destroyed the very young and the very old first. What followed was a complete breakdown of law and order–the survivors lost the restraining influence of their elders and had no future (children). That a society is voluntarily doing this by enshrining abortion, contraception, sexual deviancy and euthenasia is truly satanic.

    • JP

      I am reminded of Poe’s Mask of Red Death.

      • Jason Wills

        “And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

    • When collectively give the green light for disposal of the youngest, the oldest, the sickest, and the unhappiest, we’ve justified the suicide of our civilization.

  • St JD George

    Sad. Yet another organ of Christ’s creation being overcome by Satan’s metastatic cancers. How cunning he his to fog our sensibility and make us think we are merciful in carrying out acts of destruction in the name of free will and personal choice. How do we medics dispense the cure of the Eucharist to the growing number of patients dying in the field all around us. People worry about epedimics yet the most obvious and deadly one stares us in the face daily, the battle for souls and life and faith.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    At a low point, I once picked up Romans and read the end of Paul’s letter With great tenderness he greets:

    “Phebe, Prisca, and Aquila, Epenetus his beloved, Mary, Andronicus, and Junius, Ampliatus most beloved, Urbanus and Stachys, Apelles, those that are of Aristobulus’s household, Herodion, and those that are of Narcissus’s household, Trypheua and Tryphosa, Persis the dearly beloved, Rufus and his mother, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes and the brethren with them, Philologus and Julia, Nereus…”

    ‘The right to life’ is about the right to life of ‘Rufus and his mother’. It is about the undestroyed infant that blossoms into ‘Persis the dearly beloved’. Few things have touched me more deeply and I’m not sure why.

  • Lou Iacobelli

    Wonderful article that traces the”legal” steps taken to crown the culture of death in Canada. Now with physician assisted-suicide/euthanasia we have come full circle: the right to life includes the right to die.

  • reddog44

    It is a sad day in Canada as this worldwide slip into the abyss continues. Margaret Sommerville opined that “once on the slippery slope there is no hope for reversal.”
    Lord have mercy on us all.

  • mollysdad

    This may be the point at which it’s time to throw Canada away as a nation.

    The item on the agenda is not to save the Canadian nation for Christ, but to save people out of a nation whose destruction is now inevitable.

  • Vinny

    “Abortion killed millions upon millions of babies, but it has constricted the psychological growth of those who made it through, those who weren’t aborted.” Goes to the fact that those who are alive get to decide that others will not live, simply because they happen to be alive.

  • Vinny

    I believe that Herod, though a grave and great sinner, actually had a speck of a conscience. He kept John the Baptist alive solely because he was righteous? Why should Herod care? He cared because he knew what he did was wrong and that John was right – it “perplexed” him. It tweaked a shallow conscience as he liked to listen to him.

    “Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,and kept him in custody.
    When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
    yet he liked to listen to him.”

  • ColdStanding

    The morally corrupt financier Jay Gould said he could pay one half of humanity to kill the other. Turns out the man was not terribly far thinking. The reality is that you can charge one half of humanity for the expenses of their own execution and make it simultaneously illegal for them to complain about it. Sick.

    Let’s not kid ourselves that this is the end game. Next on the list are the undesirable. By which I mean those that would dare oppose these newly confected rights, or, and this is more, chilling those that might oppose. In fine anybody morally opposed to immortality.

    Sad day to be a Canadian.

  • BillinJax

    “Everyone born in Canada since 1969 has been born into a country in which they could have been legally killed.”
    Read that line over and over until you get it!!!!
    And if that reality doesn’t make you understand the magnitude of the power Satan has gained and holds on our modern society nothing will.
    When we turn from the light of truth there is nothing but darkness before us and we are lost by (pro)choice.

  • Mrs_Snoopington

    Does this mean that Britain will follow?? “The shadow of death persists.” I like your choice of words throughout and will keep a copy of this on file to refer to.

  • Atilla The Possum

    God Help Canada!

  • bonaventure

    2005 was the year of homosexual “marriage” in Canada — 2015 is the year of homosexual “marriage” in the U.S. (when the SCOTUS will legalize it across the States).

    So if 2015 is the year of euthanasia in Canada — will 2025 be the year of forced euthanasia in the U.S., rammed down our throats as “unconstitutional” by the SCOTUS?

    Or will it be sooner?

    • deltaflute

      Well, technically speaking euthanasia is already legal in the US but only in certain states. Some of the stuff I’ve read said that many pro-deathers used the US as an example to ram this down SCOC. Sad.

  • Philip Sieve

    It amazes me how liberals say theirs is a conservative government. How? I see no indication of it.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Here is a curious thing. We are constantly assured that euthanasia is a free and rational choice.

    But if a man on his death-bed makes a will or grants a disposition, how easy it is to persuade the courts that he was not in a “sound and disposing mind.” Let him leave a legacy to his doctor or his nurse and the courts will presume facility on the one side and circumvention on the other.

    Surely, there is an inconsistency here.

    • Eamonn McKeown

      Tom Benson of the New Orleans Saints.

  • alden

    Our life belongs to God alone: not to
    anyone, even our self, thus no matter what kind of killing being it
    euthanasia, abortion or murder is all equally Antichrist. True that
    Basic needs must be meet in order to address the higher order. Then
    there must be a national policy rationalizing resources to everyone.
    Also, let us abolish greed in us so others who are deficient may have
    chances fulfill their necessities. Take for for example those who
    owns vast material wealth – in reality much of what they own may be
    useless to them but very much important for other. And in most cases,
    the rich keep in acquiring more and more rich while the poor kept
    struggling to survive. Moreover, giving compassion to the sick and
    depressed will help them realized the beauty of Living. A terminally
    ill patient would not think of ending life if there are supportive
    people who can render care unselfishly. Accordingly, Simple living
    and Love are profound answer to halt the practice of abortion and

  • Objectivetruth

    “Death…..where is thy sting?”

  • Catholic_Mom_of_6

    One wonders why something so obvious (and articulately expressed by Mr. Bissonnette) is so difficult for others to understand. The only explanation is that they are blinded by their choice of living in the darkness of being their own gods.

  • Rusty

    I am very concerned about what this legislation means. Perhaps the only effective tactic to blunt its effect will be for the government to ensure that the law it is being asked to write protects those who work in the Health Care system from being required to take part in or support so-called “physician assisted suicide”. Health care is typically provided through teamwork – it would be a sin of commission to facilitate these murders (for it can be nothing short of murder to actually kill someone who requests their own death). If the rights of conscientious objectors are protected (as they must be, since it is doubtful that many chose to go into health care professions in order to kill people), it could well become logistically difficult for this evil to take place.

    Long term care homes currently are filled with people who feel a sense of mission in serving, protecting, caring for and loving the people in their care. If supporting these murders through participation becomes a term of employment, the system will not be able to function. As our society continues to change, will employees in these places become the moral equivalents of death camp guards?

    • deltaflute

      What also of those who “pay” into the Health Care System? I can’t opt out of abortions and possibly now euthanasia. It’s a disgusting violation of rights all around.

  • beyond partisan

    Next up: Christian doctors who refuse to participate in euthanasia will be forced to comply or have their licenses revoked (or worse).

  • Orak

    Actually, the 9 wigless judge of the Supreme Court of Canada wear red robes, but they might as well be wearing the black robes of the 9 wigless judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, since both courts apply a Charter/Bill of Rights. We are very lucky in Australia not to have a Bill of Rights. Such broad, sweeping guarantees of “freedom of speech” which, at a high level of generality, most people can agree with, permit the court to impose a social agenda. Orak.

  • Gail Finke

    I found this passage particularly striking: “The Church defines a sacrament as a sign that achieves what it signifies, and in some profound sense, everything that we do on this side of the veil has the sacramental power of achieving a spiritual reality either of light and godliness, or of darkness and evil. Our acts become habits which in turn become our characters; who we are. The slow-motion suicide of a culture which kills its children so that it can perpetuate its own fantasy of childhood is spiritually transforming. It is who we are. And now we have also officially abandoned those most in need of the most basic human covenant, supporting each other in the struggle to live.” It may explain why it is that so many cultures — not just North America and Europe but also Japan and Russia — are collapsing. The “shadow of death” is on everything, and people simply will not reproduce or care for very many others. They seem to enjoy living, but they hasten toward death, and now (as a group, if not as individuals) are ready to kill the very young and the very old.