Deborah Gyapong: So when did suffering lose all meaning asks Brian Dijkema

So when did suffering lose all meaning asks Brian Dijkema



“The reasons people want assisted suicide include fear of being abandoned, dying alone and unloved—and of being a burden on others.”

Loneliness and love aren’t usually topics that come up in conversations about euthanasia. But the point above, raised by Margaret Somerville at a recent event hosted by the deVeber Institute at the University of Toronto, suggests that euthanasia is far from simply a legal issue. It is first and foremost a cultural issue—an issue that sheds light on how we understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be a human community.

Closely related was another observation made by Somerville in one of the law classes she teaches at McGill. She noted that her students no longer see death as the ultimate antithesis of life. Her students think that “yes, death is bad” but quickly add “but suffering is worse.” In the course of her remarks she noted that this tendency to view suffering in life as a fate worse than death is a leading cultural driver—alongside horribly muddled language—of the movement towards physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Suffering no longer has any meaning. And therefore a life with suffering doesn’t either. She noted that the most common place where suffering is seen as possessing some sort of meaning, even positive meaning—religion—is in decline, and that this too is a contributor to the euthanasia movement.

All of which caused me to consider two things: 
First, what happened? When was it that suffering lost meaning?

Go on over and find out. 

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