My Life, My Death, My Choice … or NOT

July 26, 2023 • Posted in Blog


Joyce A. Shelton, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology Emerita
Trinity International University

As we emerge from the shadow of a worldwide pandemic that forced society to seek safety in unprecedented government control, we are finding that governments are now unwilling to hand back the reins to the populace. New laws, hastily passed, are designed to limit individual freedoms and solidify the power of policy makers over our lives. Frequently, we are told that these laws are for own good and/or the good of our society. Those who disagree are often marginalized, cancelled, or even arrested, accused of obstructing needed liberal social change. Hard earned values are being lost in this approach: respect for human dignity and worth, honor for the sacredness of human life, and care for the welfare of others, to name a few. Consider two recent laws in Canada as a proof of point.

In early 2021, Canada weakened a previous law permitting physician-assisted suicide only for terminally ill patients, to include eligibility for those without a reasonably foreseeable death. The new criteria for MAID (medical aid in dying) could arguably be stretched to include anyone who asks for it. As a result of this change, the assisted suicide rate in Canada has increased sharply, with over 13,500 deaths by MAID in 2022. Those supporting euthanasia, like the organization Dying with Dignity, say that MAID is “driven by compassion, an end to suffering and discrimination, and desire for personal autonomy.” But those in opposition say that the country’s regulations lack necessary safeguards and devalue the lives of disabled people, lead to decisions under duress, undervalue palliative care, engage physicians in directly doing harm to their patients, and encourage health workers to suggest, even recommend, MAID to those who might not otherwise consider it or need to. So much for respecting persons, valuing human life, and the trusted role of physicians to be healers and not killers.

This example of legislation gone wrong is bad enough, but it is compounded by yet another new law in Canada involving organ donation. Every year, the gap between the number of patients needing organs and available organ donors gets wider. The organ transplant industry has diligently sought ways to narrow that gap and one way has been to make donation registry more accessible. Until recently, in Canada, one could express consent for organ donation on one’s driver’s license. This opt-in model (currently in place in the U.S.) is voluntary and intended to protect personal autonomy. It has increased the number of donors, but not, unfortunately, enough to meet demand. Recent legislation in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick proposes to further increase donors by utilizing an opt-out process that presumes donor consent by everyone unless they specifically indicate otherwise. The donor pool is increased, but by definition, it is no longer a freely given donation. In Canada, the choice is now under government control.

It does not take much discernment to see that a “ready-MAID” source for transplantable organs might be those patients considering physician assisted suicide. But surely, other safeguards that protect the life and dignity of the donor like the dead donor rule, which says that transplantable organs can be removed only from persons who are already dead, are intact? Good question. In New Brunswick, the law states that “The chief coroner may allow the removal of organs or tissue of a person ‘notwithstanding that death has not yet occurred if … in the opinion of a physician the death of the person is imminent by reason of injury or disease.’ ” A common difficulty for organ procurers is that some terminally ill donors take too long to die following termination of life support and the lack of blood circulation renders the organs unsuitable for transplantation. This problem is resolvable by commandeering organs from patients who aren’t dead, but think they want to be. The juxtaposition of the MAID law and the opt-out registry law for organ donors has opened the door to removing organs from euthanasia candidates before they are dead, perhaps against their will, and possibly as the very means of their suicide. This picture is not one of dying with dignity; it is not a peaceful exit or a good death. It may not even portray the patient’s free choice. It is evisceration, pure and simple: an ugly way to die. Whether as an unintended consequence or a cold, deliberate utilitarian means to remedy several perceived societal needs in one fell swoop, these laws promote death, not life, and further erode respect for the dignity and worth of our fellow human beings.

The current and very probable future consequences of Canada’s recent liberal laws are a forewarning. In the United States, more restrictive state level regulations regarding physician assisted suicide (legal in 10 states and D.C.) and organ donation have, thus far, prevented the dramatic escalations seen in Canada. In our current cultural climate, that could change in a heartbeat. Be aware and be vigilant.

The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture encourages respectful discussion and debate of bioethics issues, and strongly supports freedom of speech. To that end, we invite and welcome other voices to the discussion of bioethics issues. Invited authors’ views are their own, and do not necessarily represent those of The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture.


Worth Your Time: Selections from the Bioethics Library

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D. Distinguished Fellow of the Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D.
Distinguished Fellow
The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture

Adam Rutherford, Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics

Rutherford is an award-winning Lecturer in Biology and Society at the University College of London, where he teaches the history of eugenics, race science, genetics, and science communication, as well as at universities around the world. So he is well-equipped to assess the history and threat of eugenics. This relatively short book is divided into two major sections: Part One: Quality Control and Part Two: Same As It Ever Was. Although not working from an ostensibly Judeo-Christian framework, the volume is an accessible tour de force of the history and current state of genetic science and reproductive technology. The title, Control, hints at the author’s basic question. What are we willing to do to ensure human flourishing? Do we invest in education, health care, and equality of opportunity or do we engage in the pseudoscience of eugenics to exercise control? Troubling questions, indeed.



Abigail Favale, Ph.D., The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory

This is a must read by those who want to understand better the cultural morass we’re in. Written by a former postmodern feminist who lost her evangelical faith in graduate school, The Genesis of Gender, is part memoir, part analysis of feminist theory, and part manifesto of a recovered Christian philosopher. Favale takes the mask off of the sexual revolutionary’s social and political agenda and shows clearly that they are being dishonest with the science and the truth. Get this book and read it now.




This marks the 55th anniversary of what is arguably the greatest defense of covenant marriage, procreation, and the sanctity of every human life ever written. It deserves to be read annually.