The End of Life—and the End of an Era?

We are approaching an inflection point. In geometry, an inflection point is where a curve starts to change its shape—say, from curving upward to curving downward. The last fifty years feels like a steady series of inflection points in our culture, and we’re about to hit another one.

After more than four weeks of hearings, the case of Truchon and Gladu v. the Attorneys General of Canada and Quebec finally came to an end in Montreal last month. It is the latest challenge to the law regarding medical aid in dying (MAID) as Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu seek the freedom to receive MAID long before they meet the current criteria of the provincial law, which requires that they be at “the end of life,” and of the federal law, which requires that their imminent natural death be “reasonably foreseeable.”

The governments of Quebec and of Canada are trying to hold the line against the expansion of MAID. Governments throughout the western world have been worrying about rising incidence of suicide, and lawyer Robert Reynolds recently summarized their concern as expressed in this case:

“Experts presented by the federal government argued that if the end of life requirement were removed, many patients currently being treated by psychiatrists to prevent their suicide would become eligible for MAID and suicide rates would increase. This opinion was borne out by expert evidence from Holland, where there is no end of life requirement in the law. In the last ten years in Holland there has been a steady increase in the number of people being euthanized, and during that same period, suicide numbers in the general population have increased at a higher rate than those in neighbouring countries such as Germany.”

Reynolds, a former president of the Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF), argued on CLF’s behalf that “this case represented a clash of values or ideologies: on the one hand, the autonomy of the individual, or self-determination, and on the other hand, the sacred character of human life.” And ay, there’s the rub.

The “sacredness” or “sanctity” of life derives from the concept of being “holy” (Latin sanctus), which means “to be set apart to God.” To begin or end a human life, so Christians (and other believers in a Supreme Being) have maintained, is the purview of God.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Beware the Quiet Call of Corruption

In the Biblical book of Proverbs, two odd sayings, almost identical, appear just a few verses apart: “Diverse weights and diverse measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (20:10); and “Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good” (20:23).

Why is God getting upset about kilograms and centimetres?

Quick translation: God hates there being one standard for the rich and another for the poor. God hates unfair systems. And corruption wrecks good systems.

The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1870s and 1880s, at the time projected to be the longest bridge in the world, was tremendously difficult. New challenges faced the engineers and construction workers at every turn, sometimes with lethal risks: at least 20 people died due to the project, including its architect, John Roebling.

It was nonetheless possible to build such a bridge and for it to be safe for the millions who would later cross it. Washington Roebling had taken over from his father as chief engineer, and he knew that if everyone just did his or her part, his father’s design would triumph.

But corruption threatened the bridge’s very sinews.

The trustees of the bridge project, some of them doubtless in the pay of William M. “Boss” Tweed and other shady officials, maneuvered to keep the Roebling family out of contracts for the crucial cables on which the success of the bridge literally hung. The Roebling company’s cables were among the best in the world, but “conflict of interest” was hypocritically sounded at the trustees’ meeting, and the contract went instead to J. Lloyd Haigh of Brooklyn.

Haigh’s company, however, mixed in bad wire for good in the cables. Roebling’s son Washington, who took over as chief engineer when his father died, found out about the defective wire—but not in time. To this day, the Brooklyn Bridge has corruption running right through it, with weak wire in place of strong. Only the Roeblings’ specifications to make the cables six times stronger than they had to be has kept everyone safe. The cables are, now, four times stronger than necessary.

As Canada’s SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal proceeds to light up the evening news, our American cousins are dealing with a scandal in college admissions. Dozens of rich Americans (and at least one Canadian) have been swept up in an operation exposing bribery and fraud on a massive scale as parents sought to put their unqualified children into chosen universities. And since those universities have limited spaces, those unqualified children pushed out those who had earned those spots instead.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

A Bribe by Any Other Name Would Smell…

I’ve got some hard things to say, so let’s get a couple of things straight before I say them.

First, I am not writing out of partisanship. I have voted Red, Blue, and Orange in various elections, and I can imagine someday voting Green (or Blue-White-and-Red, if I have the PPC colours correct).

Second, I applaud the prime minister’s vaunted concern for reconciliation with aboriginal peoples and for elevating the status of women in Canada. I don’t care, and I cannot possibly know, how deep in his heart run these concerns. They matter to me, and I’m glad our prime minister has placed priority on them.

I do not, therefore, leap onto the bandwagon of those who cry, “Hypocrisy!” at Justin Trudeau because of the SNC-Lavalin affair and the bad treatment of his one-time Justice Minister and star cabinet member Jody Wilson-Raybould. Trudeau might be a hypocrite, but to judge him as such requires a confidence about his heart that I cannot presume.

I want to invoke a different category: Bribery.

I’m neither a lawyer nor a legislator. It seems to me, however, that if a government decides to include in its criminal code a provision for a person or a corporation to pay a fine rather than undergo a messy trial and then incarceration, that can be perfectly reasonable. When instead a corporation’s officers lobby a government to change the law so that they can pay a fine (to the government) rather than undergo a messy trial and then incarceration, that is something else.

A bribe.

If I’m stopped for a traffic violation in a small town, and the local cop who arrests me says I’m going to spend the night in jail, and I offer to pay the town a fee to avoid imprisonment, what would you call what I’m offering? A donation?

[For the rest, please click HERE.]