Some of you may know that I was going to have an interview with the Minnesota Atheist’s “Atheists Talk” Radio today (29th May 2011). Well, it seemed to go pretty well, and Mike Haubrich has already got a podcast up of the interview — within minutes! – which you can listen to if you like. (I’ve plugged it in at the bottom.) You may not find it particularly interesting, but at least you’ll know what I sound like! Just a couple of things. I think I say at one point in the interview that Elizabeth died on June 7. I’m not sure why I said that, because I know as well as anything that it was June 8th, 2007 — which I also say! (This just goes to show, by the way, how easy it is for messages in transmission to be varied, even by those who were there! This is a good lesson to learn, especially when you consider the claims that biblical scholars often make for the reliability of the gospel narratives.) The other thing was when Mike called me an ‘Anglican oriented Catholic’, whereas the truth was that I had been an Anglo-Catholic, that is, a Catholic Anglican, a product, at some remove, of the 19th century Oxford Movement, started by Newman and others at Oxford who came to believe, as the Wikipedia article says, that “the Anglican Church [was] one of three branches of the Catholic Church.” Not that this weighs with me now, or is in any way particularly important now that I have no relationship with the church, but it’s just as well to get it right.
Amongst the things that I should have liked to get to — the hour fairly flew by, and it was over before I knew it — was how things turned out when I returned from Switzerland, because that brought me face to face with the ugly forces of religion. Being pretty naïve where legalities are concerned, it never occurred to me (or to Elizabeth) that the law would have anything to say about someone who accompanied his wife to Switzerland, where she had chosen to die. Although Elizabeth did think, perhaps strangely, that someone might try to stop us, and so she was careful not to tell anyone when we were leaving or from which place. (We drove to Montreal and then went direct to Zurich by Swissair.) But I think, had Elizabeth known that the law would take an interest on my return, she might not have chosen this option, because she was very concerned that I not be implicated in anything concerning her death. So, in that sense, I’m glad we didn’t think of it, because she had the peaceful death that she sought, lying in my arms, and no harm came of it in the end. And to tell the truth, it was only Elizabeth I cared for, that she should have the peace she sought. (I know, it’s a bit of contradiction, equating death with peace, but it’s not when you’re suffering.)
However, when I returned from Switzerland, it wasn’t long before the news media, via the so-called “pro-life” brigade, and through them, the police, were on my doorstep, sometimes figuratively, but once actually camped out, waiting for me to come home. Elizabeth had written her own obituary, which I then edited for her, and she had thanked Dignitas and Switzerland for their kindness and generosity, and the so-called “Euthanasia Prevention Coalition” — run by the aptly named Alex Schadenburg (compare Schadenfreude) out of London, Ontario — which is one of the Roman Catholic hydra’s many heads, though the connexion is not advertised — got in touch with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police – for those of you who don’t know), and they got in touch with me. They must have scouts across the country (the EPC), since the obituary was only published in the local Halifax newspaper. I was interviewed by the police in some detail on Thursday, 28th June 2007, as I recall, and a few days after that I had a visit from a constable from the Annapolis Valley Major Crimes Unit who told me that no charges would be laid. I must say that I found the RCMP to be politeness and kindness personified, very professional, but very sensitive and compassionate too, which is more than I can say for Christian organisations. Before that I was asked for several interviews on TV and radio. It was rather a flurry of attention for a few days, with satellite trucks parked out in front of the house, and reporters and cameramen trooping back and forth to the house. It was big news for a news cycle, and I still get calls when the question comes up, two or three in the last few months alone. These things are obviously filed and remembered.
So, here is the podcast from the Minnesota Atheists. It was a pleasure speaking with Mike Haubrich. What a remarkable programme they put on, and they need your support, so help them if you can. Listening to it I realise that I have a tendency to mumble, I’m afraid, so you’ll be challenged from time to time to know what I said, but I think you can make out most of it.
While the following will not tell you about what happened when I returned to Canada, it does tell of my experiences with Elizabeth at Dignitas, on 8th June 2007, when she died. It is a an audio clip from an interview which I did with CBC Radio’s “As it Happens” programme on the 29th June 2007, three weeks after Elizabeth died. As I say, I was swarmed by the media for a few days after Elizabeth’s memorial service on the 23rd June, and this was the only interview that I could find for download at the time.
As It Happens