Ethics is at the heart of humanism, so this was a good opportunity to look at how we make ethical decisions. Using the difficult issue of assisted dying (a hot topic in Canada right now with federal legislation pending and Quebec having recently introduced their own), we looked at five criteria for evaluating a course of action: utilitarian – what does the most good for the greatest number; judicial – what most respects equality and proportionality; human rights – what best respects the rights of those impacted; the common good – what best serves the community as a whole; and virtue – what is most in keeping with one’s sense of morality.
Half of the group evaluated the matter from a religious point of view, the other half from a humanist perspective, and we “compared notes.” Not surprisingly, the application of the five criteria differed, especially as the group response to the idea of assisted dying (however couched, as euthanasia, assisted suicide, death with dignity . . .) was presumed at the outset.
A good exercise and a good introduction to the potential complexity of ethical decision making.