A familiar phrase contested by few, and even heard uttered by fictional serial killer Dexter Morgan.
As you may know, I myself took my cat to the vet to be euthanized back in December because it was the humane thing to do. What I find fascinating though about the almost unanimous agreement with those six words is that it's widely considered okay to end an animal's life and suffering precisely because they're not human. Killing an animal is sometimes even performed when it's a matter of convenience for a guardian and when it has very little to do with suffering. In this instance the property status of an animal is most clear, but even when the deed is done for the right reasons, permission seems to be based on the fact that a companion animal isn't considered a person.
Which is odd when you look at the word "humane" itself. Broadly speaking, humane means showing compassion, mercy and kindness, so you would think that when a human being is suffering and wishes for their life to end, then humaneness would automatically include the human contained in the word itself. But no, that particular granting of ending a being's suffering and life is restricted to those whom society generally deems to be without personhood. It's okay to end the lives of companion animals because they're not people, and as many would argue, have no souls. It's not okay though to extend that same dignity to a being not considered as property. How is that not backward somehow?
Now the point of this post wasn't to get into a euthanasia debate as such, but its genesis was sparked by news that doctor-assisted suicide will be allowed in Canada as of February 6. Welcome news to me in part because of the suffering, decay and death that I saw my own father and stepfather go through, and still witness on an almost daily basis at work. And having come from the Netherlands where euthanasia (including physician-assisted suicide) has been legal for decades, I personally regard it as a dignified option for those who want it. Because if suicide itself is not illegal, why should assisted suicide be against the law?
But getting back to the concept of dignity, it still strikes me as peculiar that that is something we're willing to grant to beings whom we otherwise sometimes treat in the exact opposite way for most of their lives. They're given the legal status of objects and property, but if they're designated as "pets", then we can end their lives humanely without impunity. So why not give persons whom we supposedly value more the same consideration?
I don't get it. But maybe I'm not seeing things clearly.